The Year in Review: water boiled, the earth shook and the town posed for a portrait | SierraSun.com
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The Year in Review: water boiled, the earth shook and the town posed for a portrait

Staff reports

January

— Y2K glitches minimum – The Year 2000 entered Truckee in relatively quiet style, according to reports from agencies. Only the Truckee Donner Public Utility District reported slight abnormalities in computer functions during the changeover.

— Town razes old Glenshire Bridge – The final span of the old Glenshire bridge came down with a splash on Tuesday, Jan. 4.

— First baby of Y2K – Nicholas Silver was born on Jan. 1, 2000 at 6:17 a.m. to Elkie and Larry Silver of Truckee.

— Resorts’ profits down for holiday season – A large holiday crowd chose Tahoe-Truckee as the the place to be at the start of the new century, but with less snow than usual, the turnout at area ski resorts was lower than previous holiday weekends.

— PUD to survey Internet and cable TV use -The Truckee Donner PUD moved forward with plans to survey the Truckee community on Internet use and cable television services to see if customers would be more likely to switch to PUD services if the options were there.

— I-80 sniper sentenced -Former high school honor student Christopher Merritt, 21, of Mankato, Minn., was sentenced Jan. 11 to at least 20 years in prison for a sniper attack on Interstate 80 that he intended to start a cross-country shooting spree. Merritt earlier pleaded guilty to six counts of attempted murder in the winter 1998 shooting rampage. An Olympic Valley man was shot in the chest and hospitalized but no one was killed.

–TTUSD board nixes charters – The Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District voted unanimously to deny two proposed Olympic Valley charter schools, stating both charters did not adequately meet the board’s criteria.

February

— Bodies found at Boca – The bodies of a Pacifica, Calif., couple were found on Feb. 1 in a vehicle at the firing range near Boca Reservoir. Forty-eight-year-old Don Hernandez, who was found in the front seat of the vehicle, apparently died from a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. Debra Jean May-Hernandez, 40, was found the in the rear of the vehicle tightly wrapped in bedding.

— Wind storm blasts region – Residents endured howling winds, icy roads and power outages as a nasty but brief storm tossed trees onto power lines, houses, propane tanks, cars and roadways. Sierra Meadows, Ponderosa Palisades and the west end of Donner Lake neighborhoods were hit the hardest, where forceful gusts knocked large trees onto houses causing significant damage to at least three homes, officials said. More than 5,000 residents were without power, some for as long as 24 hours.

— Truckee woman shot on I-80 in Reno – In what officials called a case of road rage, Truckee resident Stephanie Pierce, 30, was shot in the face on the morning of Feb. 14 while traveling to work in Reno. Paul Pierce, the victim’s husband, was driving the couple’s white Subaru hatchback eastbound on Interstate 80 when the incident occurred. The Pierces’ vehicle had reportedly passed a red or maroon, late-model GEMC or Chevrolet pickup on the right and then pulled into the left lane. The driver of the pickup then began tailgating and subsequently pulled alongside the Pierces’ vehicle. About one mile west of Robb Drive, the driver of the pickup raised a handgun and fired once through the passenger window of the Subaru, hitting Stephanie in the face. She was admitted to Saint Mary’s Hospital for surgery and reported in fair condition later in the week.

March

— Airport district adopts revised master plan – The Truckee Tahoe Airport District board adopted the airport’s Master Plan Update after accepting the related Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration, despite opposition from local residents and the Town of Truckee.

— 1999 Citizens of the Year – Sal Bulkley and Marshal Lewis were named Truckee Interclub’s 1999 Citizens of the Year for their outstanding service work and contributions to the community.

— Daron Rhalves wins World Cup – Truckee local Daron Rhalves won the downhill World Cup at Kvitfjell, Norway on Friday, March 3. This was Rhalves’ first World Cup victory, after edging Switzerland’s Didier Cuche by nine-hundredths of a second.

— Green wins 5th district supe’s seat – Truckee’s Barbara Green won the race for Nevada County 5th District Supervisor, receiving 16 percent more votes than opponent Clyde Hall of Nevada City. Green also beat opponent Marion “Bill” Steele by a wide margin.

— Lost skier found after two days – Fifty-one hours after she left the Sugar Bowl Ski Area boundary, Sara Allis Norville of Danville was found alive and ambulatory on March 6 by local search and rescue volunteers. Norville was found in the Onion Creek drainage which runs between Mount Lincoln and Mount Disney. She said she survived by eating snow and thinking of loved ones. She even composed a good-bye letter to her fiance and family using an eyeliner pencil and a scrap of paper.

— Rock slide blocks Old 40 – A rock slide on the morning of March 16 catapulted at least five rocks the size of pickup trucks onto Old Highway 40 near Donner Summit, leaving the road completely blocked in both directions for three days.

— DOJ agent murdered – The husband of a missing California Department of Justice agent was arrested in Reno on a no-bail bench warrant for murder, three days after she was last seen at their Prosser Lakeview home. Ron Blamey was held in Washoe County Jail on the warrant, which was issued out of Nevada County. Blamey was interviewed by authorities and gave them the general location of 52-year-old Michiel Blamey’s body.

April

— Blamey charged with wife’s murder – Ron Blamey was arraigned for a charge of murder on April 4, six days after the blanket-wrapped body of Blamey’s wife, Michiel, was found in a field near the town of Sheridan. He pled not guilty during an arraignment in June.

— Town sues airport – The Town of Truckee filed suit March 29 against the Truckee-Tahoe Airport District alleging that the district improperly and unlawfully approved a negative declaration in support of the airport’s master plan.

— Affordable housing plans move forward – Truckee Town Council denied the Tahoe-Sierra Meadows Community Association’s appeal of the Sierra Village Apartment Homes project, making way for the project to go forward. The Sierra Village Apartments will include a 2,000-square-foot office/community building, eight two-bedroom units, 56 three-bedroom units and eight four-bedroom units.

— Council pulls bond on Wolfe Estates – Truckee Town Council voted unanimously to accept the $276,588 performance bond posted by Wolfe Development in 1994 to guarantee road and utility improvements in Wolfe Estates Phase IV, despite the objections of the developer’s representative.

May

— Airport repeals master plan – The Tahoe Truckee Airport District Board adopted a solution which has the effect of rescinding the Airport Master Plan Update and its associated Mitigated Negative Declaration. The town reported it would dismiss the lawsuit filed against the district.

— Caltrans releases 2000 plan – Following public outcry over a plan to divert westbound Interstate 80 traffic down Old Highway 40 during summer 2000, Caltrans changed its plans. Instead, Caltrans announced westbound I-80 traffic would be diverted onto eastbound lanes beginning in June 2000.

— Council purchases town hall site – Truckee Town Council approved 4-0 the purchase of the former SierraWest Bank headquarters as a new town hall site in a meeting May 8 – at a price of $5.2 million.

— Explosive concerns cited at East River Street fire – Truckee firefighters had a busy shift the week of May 22, responding to and fighting three fires in a 24-hour period. The most serious of the three calls was the blazing fire in Al Pombo Inc.’s construction yard, and fire officials closed access to East River Street and Glenshire Drive when they were advised that more than 50 pounds of blasting agent, dynamite and other explosive materials were stored close to the fire.

June

— Post Office plans new building – Truckee’s mail service is growing along with the rest of the region, and officials from the U.S. Postal Service on June 8 announced plans to build a new, larger structure.

— Residents protest right of way cuts – In the 15 years since Nevada County last trimmed bush and trees along the roadways of Prosser Estates, the greenery flourished, encroaching into the town-owned right of way – and some Prosser residents wanted it to remain uncut. Town of Truckee public works employees met with strong opposition in one Prosser neighborhood as they attempted to clear the town right of way in the subdivision.

— Federal warrant served to Squaw – Twelve federal agents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency served a search warrant and seized information at Squaw Valley USA on the morning of June 20. “There is no danger to anybody as far as health but the environment is in danger,” said Jorge Urquijo, Environmental Protection Agency’s special agent in charge.

— TTUSD considers budget with surplus – In June 1999, the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District faced a nearly $900,000 budget shortfall and made more than $600,000 in cuts to its 1999-2000 budget to balance its spending plan and meet the state-mandated 3 percent reserve. This year, due to an extra $2.4 million in state funding, the 2000-2001 budget projections indicated the district would come out ahead of its required 3 percent reserve.

— Donner Lake Water issues boil notice – During the busiest weekend of the year, Donner Lake Water Co., the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Department of Health Services issued a boil water announcement for residents of Donner Lake until further notice. (See additional story)

July

— A fond farewell to a Sierra legend – The death of Hal Wright, 50-year publisher and founder of Loyalton’s Sierra Booster, marked the end of an adventurous career in community journalism. Wright, who died on June 24, was known by many worldwide as the “aerial paper boy” who delivered papers to readers in remote areas of his 600-square-mile paper route.

— Dot’s Place demolition approved – The house that may be Truckee’s last surviving brothel from the Depression era was given permission to be torn down by Truckee’s Town Council. After deliberating both sides of the issue, the council approved plans to tear down the Jibboom Street house and allow the owner extra time to apply for necessary permits to build the proposed office space.

— Truckee set to get own police department – Town council voted to proceed with plans for an independent Truckee police department to replace Nevada County Sheriffs Office services.

August

— Judge moves to dismiss teen band libel suit – The suit against four Truckee youth and their parents filed by a Nevada County Sheriff’s Deputy last winter was motioned for dismissal on July 5 by a Nevada County Superior Court judge. NCSO Deputy Stephen Tripp filed a civil suit against the members of the local band Gusher and their parents charging libel, slander and negligence in association with the lyrics of a song called “Protect and Serve.”

— Truckee man arrested in raid – Douglas A. Gerrie was arrested on Aug. 14 in Tahoe Donner in a raid by Nevada County Sheriff’s Office deputies and a SWAT team, after arming himself with a firearm and refusing to come out of his home. Gerrie, 45, was charged by the NCSO for allegedly being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm, making terrorist threats and threatening a peace officer.

— Barsell project approved – After five years, lengthy litigation and concerns regarding the cultural preservation of the area, Town Council approved a new hotel, restaurant and commercial space on the Barsell property south of Interstate 80 off Highway 267.

— Mount Fuji conquered – On Monday, Aug. 21, Truckee residents Laurie Martin, Windy Smith, Janet Brady and Lois Fletcher joined more than 200 other Japanese and American climbers to conquer Japan’s 12,388-foot Mt. Fuji in the name of breast cancer and other related illnesses. The 150 Japanese and 60 U.S. climbers reached the top on Tuesday morning, just in time to see the sunrise.

— School board candidates unopposed – Four Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District Board of Trustees seats were open this year, but it was announced the three incumbents and one new candidate would run unopposed in the November elections.

September

— School enrollment plummets – Skyrocketing housing costs may have been a major cause in a significant decline in school enrollment in Truckee-Tahoe schools this year. According to school records, 86 students moved outside of the school district from the beginning of the school year through Sept. 5, and most moved to nearby communities where housing and the cost of living is more affordable.

— Truckee Town Portrait – On Sept. 17 more than 7,000 Truckee residents gathered at the Old Mill site on Church Street for a town portrait. The Town Portrait 2000 was the second time in history Truckee residents congregated downtown for a photo. The remaining two copies of the previous town portrait, taken 85 to 100 years ago, reside in OB’s Pub on Commercial Row and at the Old Jail Museum in care of the Truckee Historical society.

— Northstar expands holdings – Northstar-at-Tahoe may soon be getting a whole lot bigger. Plans to complete development at Northstar expanded to include golf, restaurant and housing properties in Truckee and the North Shore. Northstar’s parent company Booth Creek Ski Group, Inc. and its development partner East West Partners, announced the move Tuesday. The properties Northstar is acquiring are Coyote Moon Golf Course below Tahoe Donner, Sunsets on the Lake Restaurant in Tahoe Vista and Planned Community 2 (PC-2) in Truckee, also known as Boca Sierra Estates.

— Board backs off from school drug testing – After hearing from students, educators and a doctor, the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Board of Trustees began to back away from a proposal calling for mandatory random drug testing for student athletes.

— Soroptimist Woman of Distinction 2000 – Soroptimists honored longtime Truckee resident Margarita de Nevarez for a lifetime of service to the community.

October

— Fact and fiction battle in airport race – “Know the truth about the Truckee Tahoe Airport District.” That was the title of one of the promotional materials produced by airport board candidates, and it seemed to be the theme of the year 2000 election. Of the eight airport board candidates, two loose alliances formed. Incumbents Ken Foster and Don Starbard joined with challenger Bruce Kuecker in advertising and brochures, while non-pilot candidates Parvin Darabi, Lynne R. Larson and George Simmons jointly put out their own flyer. The race became highly controversial and a hot topic in the opinion pages.

— Parents stage classroom walkout – Parents in a Glenshire Elementary School kindergarten class staged a walkout on Oct. 23 to express concern over the alleged disruptive behavior of one student. Only two of the 19 children were in the class on that day.

— Hospital $1.3 million in red – An audit of the Tahoe Forest Hospital District’s 2000 year-end financial statements by the McClintock Accountancy Corporation show the hospital district incurred a $2.1 million loss in operations, which resulted in a $1.3 million deficit. The report indicated that most of the audit adjustments were made to the district’s contractual and bad debt allowances.

November

— Elections 2000 – While the Presidential election was caught in a holding pattern, Truckee political races were tight but yielded definite outcomes. Incumbents Ron Florian and Josh Susman beat Ted Owens and Kenn Rieders for Truckee Town Council. Karen Sessler and MaryLou Sullivan just barely came out on top above Anthony Zissimos and John Falk for the Tahoe Forest Hospital District Board of Directors. Ken Foster, Don Starbard and Connie Stevens were elected for the Truckee Tahoe Airport District Board and incumbents James Maass, Nelson Van Gundy and Joe Aguera were reelected to the Truckee-Donner Public Utilities District Board of Directors.

— Sierra Sun and Town Hall move – The Sierra Sun moved from its home of 10 years on Donner Pass Road to swanky new digs on Deerfield Drive, while Town Hall offices moved from the PUD building to also-swanky new digs near the airport.

— Tahoe environmental bill goes to President Clinton – In its last legislative hoop before reaching the president, a bill authorizing $300 million of Lake Tahoe environmental improvements was passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate. The bill was signed by President Clinton on Monday, Nov. 13.

— Local baby boom explodes – The Tahoe-Truckee area experienced its first baby boom in the past eight years with year 2000 babies. An expected number of 444 births at Tahoe Forest Hospital by the end of 2000 was predicted this winter, marking the first significant rise in area births since the early 1990s.

December

— Earthquakes hit the Sierra – Residents were rudely awakened on the morning of Dec. 2 by a series of small earthquakes that shook the Truckee area. The first quake measured a magnitude of 4.8 according to the United States Geological Survey Web site. The epicenter was located about 16 miles west of Truckee, about four miles north of the Kingvale exit on Interstate 80, close to Lake Fordyce. A second quake occurred three minutes later and measured 3.0. Three minutes later a third quake hit, which measured 2.0. No damages or injuries were reported.

— McCormack sworn in as mayor – Town Council elected Don McCormack mayor of Truckee for 2001, the first town council official to serve as mayor twice. McCormack replaced outgoing mayor Maia Schneider.

— Donner Ski Ranch sells for $10 million – A Las Vegas development company entered into a contract to purchase Donner Ski Ranch for nearly $10 million and may develop the area into an alpine-style village.

— Truckee gets a Town Bard – Truckee may be the only Town in the United States to have an official Town Bard. In her last mayoral move of business, Maia Schneider gave that honor to Steve Coniglio, one of Truckee’s favorite theatrical talents.

— Three hospitalized in meningitis scare – A rare outbreak of meningitis occurred among three Tahoe-Truckee High School students Dec. 14. According to Nevada County Health Department officials, two students were treated in the Intensive Care Unit at Tahoe Forest Hospital for meningococcal meningitis and a third teen with a probable diagnosis of meningitis was also admitted. The patients were released from the hospital and reported to be healthy later in the week.


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