Oh what a year: Looking back at 2003 | SierraSun.com

Oh what a year: Looking back at 2003


— Truckee-resident Kathy Polucha-Kessler dies in an avalanche in the Selkirk mountain range in the Canadian Rockies. A standing-room-only crowd attended her memorial service at the Cottonwood, with attendees remembering her sense of humor, her fight to get Donner Lake residents safe water and her love of life.

— In response to a statement from Gov. Gray Davis announcing a $35 million state deficit, town and special district officials joined a coalition called LOCAL (Leave Our Community Assets Local). Officials hoped they would have a stronger influence on the state government’s decisions through LOCAL. After the state attempted to balance the budget by changing taxes more than 10 years ago, locals began fighting the trend of the government to allocate local funds to offset the state’s budget shortfall. LOCAL proposed measures to reduce the state deficit without hurting Truckee services like the fire department, snow plowing services and the airport.

— For the price of $26 million, the Truckee Donner Public Utility District decided to end a contract with Idacorp Energy, a move which promised to halt increases and perhaps lower future power bills for the district’s customers. The decision followed a 9 percent electric rate increase the previous December, when TDPUD were planning on ending the contract with Idacorp. The settlement with Idacorp terminated the nine-year contract, which had been in effect for two years.

— The Truckee Donner Public Utility District struggled to recover from the previous December’s storm, the largest in 20 years. Crews worked to fix damaged energy lines in places like Commercial Row, Olympic Heights, Prosser Heights and Prosser Lakeview.

— A propane leak from the Amerigas propane station, found Jan. 23, shut down several businesses on Donner Pass Road, including Dairy Queen and Granite Chief. After it was first discovered, officials estimated as many as 3,600 gallons of gas leaked from an underground pipe on the Amerigas property. Officials closed Donner Pass Road and devised a plan for control and clean up of the area.

— The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District froze spending for hiring and unnecessary items for staff and faculty after former Gov. Gray Davis cut $1.9 billion from public education in December, then an additional $803.90 in January. Officials were waiting for the final numbers to come in by the end of January, amounts that would determine the final cuts in programs or if layoffs were necessary.


— Police made two separate drug busts Feb. 4, collecting 97 marijuana plants. After receiving tips about marijuana operations in two separate homes – one in Glenshire and one in Tahoe Donner – police served warrants and arrested the Glenshire residents responsible for growing the plants. The resident of the Tahoe Donner home was not home. Along with full grown plants, 6.9 pounds of packaged marijuana were found in the Glenshire home, worth about $3,000 to $4,000 per pound depending on the quality.

— The propane leak continued wreak havoc on traffic through Donner Pass Road and surrounding business as the estimate of the amount of escaped gas rose from 3,600 gallons to 22,000. Sierra Mountain Middle School students were evacuated after high levels of propane were found behind several of the classrooms. Officials found the leak, a pinhole in a pipe that had been leaking gas into the soil since the March 2002.The leak was under control almost three weeks after it was first discovered, but officials found traces of propane in the groundwater.

— Ski magazine hailed Truckee as one of the 18 best ski towns “for family style success.” The eight nearby ski resorts, 500 miles of Nordic trails, community involvement and some of the least expensive housing in the Tahoe area were what influenced the placement of Truckee in their rankings, according to Managing Editor Natalie Kurylko.

— The possibly of war with Iraq inspired scores of letters to the editor, and Truckee residents joined North Tahoe residents in the first local protest. About 75 Truckee residents joined others in prayer and peace rally to oppose the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.

— Paul McCartney surprised Truckee residents when he took the stage Feb. 27 at Moody’s Bistro and Lounge in the Historic Truckee hotel. The former Beatle played a few songs with Bob Greenwood’s jazz duo, after McCartney and his wife had dined incognito.


— A month after a propane leak was discovered on the Amerigas property, Amerigas decided to remove the propane tank for good. The business remained for customer service and billing purposes, but planned to no longer provide propane. Despite the remaining readings of a low level of propane in the air in March, no one was hurt in the course of the incident.

— A local CHP officer, Jake Jacobs was deployed to Kuwait. He served as a reservist, and although his time was up in June 2003, wartime stop laws will keep him in the military until June 2004. Jacobs left a wife and a 5-year-old son behind for his year of service in the Middle East.

— With a proposed project along Jibboom and High streets, the city hoped to develop the commercial areas on the row, transforming it to the glory of its long ago “heyday.” Jibboom Street was once Main street in Truckee, containing saloons, “ladies boarding houses” and hotels. City architects wanted to make it an extension of Commercial Row, while maintaining some of the historical elements of the street. The project later drew criticism from residents of the area, who said the proposed houses were inappropriate for the area. Some neighbors liked their views free of new roof lines while others said the proposed houses look like they belong in the suburbs.

— Tahoe Truckee High School drama students took home five awards from the Linaea Festival at the Sacramento State University. More than 2,000 students from 60 high schools competed while performing in one-act plays, monologues and duets.

— After going over several bids from power companies, the Truckee Donner Public Utility District chose Constellation Power Source Inc. as the district’s power supplier. The PUD voted unanimously to contract with the company from April 1 through Dec. 31, 2007. Power Supply Engineer Steve Hollabaugh estimated rates should hold at $49.95 per megawatt-hour.

— After the deadline President Bush gave Saddam Hussein to surrender his power in Iraq passed without a response, Truckee residents gave mixed reactions to the impending war. Some said it was the first step in stopping terrorism and it was a necessary evil. Other worried it would have unforeseen effects. Peace rallies in Kings Beach continued.

— Truckee celebrated its 10th anniversary of the government that it currently operates under. Voters decided to make Truckee an incorporated town in the November 1992 elections. Five new city council members began their terms four months later, giving Truckee a new government.

— In 2002, local woman Susan Diane, along with the Town of Truckee, formed a non-profit group called the Truckee Trails Foundation, which helps to raise money for building trails in Truckee. A year later, small portions of the trail connecting one end of the town to the other were finished. Diane said she hoped they would finish the entire eight-foot wide, paved and lighted trail by 2005.

— The first Senior Prom was held for senior citizens, sponsored by the Interact Club of Truckee. It was held at the Senior Center, where members of the Interact Club decorated for the event. It was a chance for the seniors to dress up and relive their memories from high school.

— A chemical spill shut down Interstate 80 from east Truckee at the Highway 89 interchange to Hirshdale, when the chemical was suspected to be hazardous. A barrel containing a chlorine based substance fell off a truck. By late afternoon, workers from H20 Environmental had cleaned up the spill and traffic was once again allowed passage.


— To cut expenses after the budge deficit was announced, the Tahoe Truckee Unified school district cut 34 positions. Temporary staff were told they would not have a job in fall semester of 2003. School administrators said they were fortunate in comparison with other schools across the state that had to cut non-tenured teachers who taught in their district less than two years as well as temporary staff.

— The Truckee Service Unit sent 852 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies to the U.S. military overseas as part of a larger nationwide project. Local troops sold boxes of cookies to donors, who could, for $3, write a personalized message to the recipient. Operation Cookie, as it was called, was seeking to improve morale of those deployed abroad.

— What was supposed to be a death notice for the family of a Prosser Lakeview residence turned into a marijuana bust. Police seized 133 plants from a home on Iris road. Police had smelled marijuana after entering the home and later discovered a “sophisticated” marijuana operation in the home.

— Rusty the dog was found after having been missing for 37 days. At 4 a.m., Soda Springs resident Lorraine Tarantino found the golden retriever outside her home. The dog was a survivor of a rollover after his owner fell asleep at the wheel. Rusty crawled out of the car and ran away. He survived on tree bark, stream water and snow until Tarantino found him and returned him to his owner.

— The board members for the Prosser Creek Charter school approved a five year renewal of the school’s charter. The renewal passed with a few conditions, including a new locations for the Truckee school students for the 2003-2004 year, separate charters for Prosser Creek’s out-of-district students, and a 5 percent cap on enrollment

— A spring storm hit Truckee in two waves, leaving more than two feet of snow in Tahoe Donner and other areas. The large amount of snow, which is uncharacteristic for the season, left the locals shoveling out their cars and skiers with the chance to hit the slopes one more time.

— A Truckee mom was given a glimpse of her son’s whereabouts on the front pages of papers across the country. Patty Tucek saw her son, Cpl. Andrew Garza, who had been deployed to Iraq, in a picture of soldiers walking alongside an Iraqi boy. The picture captured the celebration after troops toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. It was a reassurance to Tucek that her son was still alive and well.

— The Challenger Ridge, the property behind Donner Lake, became part of Donner Memorial State park after the Truckee Donner Land Trust and the Trust for Public Land acquired the land. The acquisition of the property tripled the size of the park, and the 1,923 acre piece of land connected Truckee and Emigrant Canyon to the Pacific Crest Trail. The trust by California state parks purchased the land, valued at $3.1 million.

— A group of Truckee students and chaperones, sponsored by the Tahoe Forest Church, traveled to Mexico to build a house for a needy family. Six truckloads of Truckee teens arrived in Tijuana and set up a camp. They spent their spring break constructing a home for the De la Vega Gonzales family.

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