2012 in review: Federal Way's top stories of the year

At the January 2012 MLK celebration, Sonya Freeman led a candlelight vigil and moment of silence for the four girls who died in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. Pictured as representing those girls as well as survivor Sarah Collins Rudolph: Kenzie Gandy, Josephine Akinlosotu, Kiana Peterson, Kamara McGhee and Ayana Freeman. - File photo
At the January 2012 MLK celebration, Sonya Freeman led a candlelight vigil and moment of silence for the four girls who died in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. Pictured as representing those girls as well as survivor Sarah Collins Rudolph: Kenzie Gandy, Josephine Akinlosotu, Kiana Peterson, Kamara McGhee and Ayana Freeman.
— image credit: File photo

Mirror staff reports

Here is a recap of top Federal Way stories and headlines from 2012.

Jan. 2012

• Federal Way welcomes state audit of Sound Transit: A state audit of Sound Transit was welcomed by Federal Way officials, who urged District 30 lawmakers to pass legislative reforms on the transit agency. The debate continues today as to whether light rail will ever reach the city.

• DNA evidence sheds light on Federal Way teen's unsolved murder: Police are hoping new information regarding the identity of the suspect in the decades-old murder of Federal Way High School student Sarah Yarborough leads to an arrest. Based on the analysis of the suspect DNA profile found at the scene, it has been learned that the suspect is a member of the extended family of Robert Fuller, who arrived in Salem, Mass., in the 1630s. Robert Fuller is related to two Fullers who arrived in America on the Mayflower.

• Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing survivor joins city's 2012 MLK Celebration: Sarah Rudolph Collins was 12 years old when her sister was killed by a bomb at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. She shared her story of survival as the keynote speaker for Federal Way's Martin Luther King Celebration.

• Winter weather: An estimated 250,000 homes and businesses in the region lost power in mid-January following a massive snow and ice storm. Thousands of people went without power for days as Puget Sound Energy and emergency crews worked around the clock. Parts of Federal Way received up to 5.5 inches of snow.

• Federal Way man wants to shoot coyotes: According to Federal Way citizen Donald Barovic, coyotes prowl his property, killing and eating his livestock. The 84-year-old Barovic had spoken to the council before regarding this issue, requesting clarity on how he can defend his livestock if he's not allowed to use a firearm. Among possible solutions, the city suggested Barovic get a donkey.

Feb. 2012

• Same-sex marriage: Washington became the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage when Gov. Chris Gregoire signed Senate Bill 6239 into law Feb. 13 at the Legislative Building in Olympia. Opponents immediately filed a referendum, and the state's voters approved same-sex marriage in the November election.

• More light rail: The light rail debate sizzled all month. King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer and State Sen. Tracey Eide (D-Federal Way) sought an amendment to Sound Transit's 2012 budget to put $24 million toward making light rail "shovel ready" in Federal Way. Meanwhile, Federal Way officials also called for bus reform from the transit agency.

• Federal Way voters split school levy proposals: In the Feb. 14 special election, the Educational Programs and Operations (EPO) levy passed, but the capital projects levy to rebuild Federal Way High School failed. The projects levy eventually passed in November.

• Newt Gingrich comes to town: Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich made a stop in Federal Way on Feb. 24 at the Best Western Evergreen Inn and Suites. Community members, Truman High School students, protesters and supporters from across Puget Sound made the trip to hear Gingrich deliver his thoughts on why he would be the best GOP candidate to defeat President Barack Obama in November.

March 2012

• Critically-injured South King firefighter leaves hospital: A South King Fire and Rescue firefighter who was critically injured in November 2011 was discharged from the hospital March 9. Wynn Loiland, 52, suffered life-threatening injuries after being struck by a vehicle on Interstate 5 while responding to the scene of a rollover accident.

• Too fat in Federal Way? Report examines city's health: Federal Way has the third highest adult obesity rate in King County, with 28.1 percent of the city's adult residents falling into that classification. The finding was one of many shared with the city in a Food Landscape report compiled by Urban Food Link, a policy and planning consulting firm based out of Seattle. It's all part of Federal Way's participation in the county's Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program, which is aimed at increasing the health of King County residents.

• Federal Way cop's second fatal shooting stirs emotional response: The public inquest into a fatal Federal Way police shooting attracted attention for being the officer's second fatal shooting within 12 months. In both cases, questions were raised about whether the officer went too far. An inquest is a public hearing of case facts, typically ordered in response to a death at the hands of law enforcement. An inquest is neither a civil nor criminal trial, and does not determine guilt or innocence.

April 2012

• Whooping cough epidemic: The number of whooping cough cases grew at a record breaking pace, according to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). As of April, 1,008 recorded cases of whooping cough were on the books for 2012, which was more than reported in all of 2011 — and just shy of the 1,026 cases reported in 2005. More than 4,500 cases were reported in 2012.

• South King Fire levy fails by less than 1 percent: Results for the April 17 special election show South King Fire and Rescue’s excess levy, also known as Proposition 1, falling short with just over 59 percent of voters saying yes. However, the levy passed four months later in the August election. The money will generate about $3.5 million dollars from taxpayers to help fund aid cars and related emergency service.

• Federal Way preacher, age 109: Federal Way preacher Otis Clark, the world’s oldest traveling evangelist at age 109, was tapped to lead a Pentecostal revival in front of 10,000 church leaders from across Africa this January. However, Clark died of natural causes on May 20. Up until his death, he was in excellent health. Clark had all of his teeth except one, which he claimed was accidentally pulled by a dentist. He wore glasses when reading, but did not use hearing aids and did not take any medications. Clark did not need a walking aid or cane.

• Federal Way celebrates Pacific Highway project: The overhaul of Pacific Highway in Federal Way had been under way for more than a decade. Completion of the $18 million Phase IV portion of the project, which extended the HOV lane from Federal Way to Sea-Tac Airport, was celebrated on April 19.

• Federal Way TV commercial: Federal Way produced a TV commercial aimed at bringing more businesses to the city. The 30-second advertisement features the slogan "Think smart. Move fast. Think Federal Way." The commercial aired on ESPN, Fox News and CNBC. Recruited as pitchmen for the city were Wild Waves Theme Park CEO Jeff Stock and former Seattle Sounders soccer pro Lamar Neagle, who attended Thomas Jefferson High School. The commercial's main goal was to help fill the Federal Way's vacant commercial real estate.

May 2012

• High gas prices: Gov. Christine Gregoire called on the state's Department of Commerce to assume the lead in trying to bring down gas prices in Washington. Washington felt the pain at the pump the most with an average price of $4.24/gallon in late May. Washington ranked behind only Hawaii, Alaska and California. The national average was $3.66/gallon at the time.

• Federal Way honors 'Top Shot' contestant: Federal Way Police Cmdr. Kyle Sumpter was honored by the Federal Way City Council for his performance on The History Channel’s reality shooting competition show “Top Shot.” Sumpter advanced to just short of the goal line on the popular shooting competition show, finishing fifth out of the 18 contestants chosen. The Mirror reported weekly about Sumpter’s progress on the TV show.

• Federal Way crime report: The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) issued its Crime In Washington 2011 report, featuring individual crime statistics for 116 police agencies statewide that submitted data. In 2011, Federal Way police reported significant reductions in crime across the board when compared to 2010 statistics. The total number of index crimes in 2011 was 4,509, while Federal Way's total number of index crimes in 2010 was 5,046. That's a reduction of 10.6 percent. The total number of property crimes in 2011 was 4,264. That's a 9.7 percent reduction from 2010's total of 4,721 property crimes in Federal Way.

June 2012

• Private liquor sales: Since June 1, Federal Way grocery stores have provided liquor and spirits for the public. With the new merchandise, stores have also taken measures to ensure the liquor is purchased legally. One of these added measures is a locking mechanism on the tops of liquor bottles. Consumers experienced sticker shock after the new law took effect. Grocery stores, pharmacies and other stores are selling liquor at higher prices than when the state sold it.

• Sculpture Park opens at transit center: Sculpture Park opened to the public this week on a grassy patch next to the Federal Way Transit Center. The city's newest park, located at 21st Avenue South and South 316th Street, features a short walking trail and seven original sculptures.

• Diving trials mean tourism dollars: In June, Federal Way hosted the 2012 United States Olympic Diving Trials at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center. The 2,500-seat facility on SW Campus Drive houses more than just a world-class swimming pool. It acts as an economic engine and tourism magnet for the region. Events such as the diving trials and the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships help the aquatic center attract thousands of visitors, who inject an estimated $8 million into the region's economy annually. According to statistics provided by King County, the trials attracted nearly 4,000 non-local visitors who spent a total of $2,285,621.

• Poison soil at three Federal Way parks: Adelaide, Heritage Woods and Lake Grove parks in Federal Way all tested positive for unsafe levels of lead and arsenic in the soil. At Lake Grove, the Department of Ecology removed the contaminated soil, then replaced it with new topsoil, grass and native plants. The other two parks will most likely receive signage that warns park users of the contaminated soil. The three parks’ positive tests are a result of contamination from the now defunct ASARCO Smelter, located in North Tacoma. The large smelter stack sent emissions of lead and arsenic through the air.

• Gun fight at Federal Way bar: A 21-year-old Renton man was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault. Kenneth M. Sutton Jr. is accused of killing Kent resident Cloise Young, 23, at Johnny's Famous Bar and Grill in a June 27 gunfight that left six others shot.

July 2012

• Teen drowns: Prabhakar "Jay" Kumar, a 2012 graduate of Todd Beamer High School in Federal Way, died the morning after rescuers found him submerged in Steel Lake. It was the first of two such incidents during the summer.

• Triangle Project: A new flyover ramp at Interstate 5 and State Route 18 officially opened in Federal Way, six months ahead of schedule. The ramp takes drivers from westbound SR 18 to southbound I-5. More than 20,000 vehicles use the ramp daily. A second ramp takes drivers from eastbound SR 18 to northbound I-5. A ramp from SR 18 to SR 161 opened in September. The entire interchange is known as the Triangle Project, where I-5, SR 18 and SR 161 converge. The project will reduce congestion and collisions at the heavily traveled exchange. With a price tag of $112 million, the project's original completion date was April 2013.

• 320th Library closes for construction: The Federal Way 320th Library, 848 S. 320th St., will expand to 15,000 square feet. Construction is expected to last one year. The new facility will include a multipurpose meeting room, study rooms and additional seating. The Federal Way Regional Library will host programs that were scheduled at the 320th branch.

• Federal Way man charged in murder: First-degree murder charges were filed against a 29-year-old Federal Way man in the grisly death of his girlfriend. Kenneth "Kenny" Mace pleaded not guilty to stabbing 20-year-old Melinda "Mindy" O'Meara more than 100 times on July 6 at the Camelot Square Mobile Home Park on South 288th Street.

• Boy dies in bicycle accident: Wayde Rodrigues-Fale, 8, was riding a bicycle north on 24th Avenue South before colliding with a vehicle traveling east on SW 333rd Street. The tragedy called further attention to speeding traffic in the neighborhood.

Aug. 2012

• Sand sculpting competition returns to Federal Way: The Northwest Sand Festival brought some of the world’s premier sand sculpting artists to The Commons parking lot from Aug. 16 to Sept. 3. Special events, consisting of live music, food and beer gardens were held throughout the event.

• Teen drowns: Federal Way High School student Tope Akinlosotu, 15, died after being rescued from Steel Lake. Hundreds of people attended a community vigil and a public memorial service.

• Traffic cameras: The photo enforced intersections continue to generate controversy. Federal Way's first four red light photo cameras went active in 2008. Today, there are 14 cameras at 11 locations. Eight cameras capture red light violations, and six cameras target school zone speeders. A photo ticket can cost between $124 to $250, depending on the violation. In the first six months of 2012, Federal Way generated about $1.2 million in net revenue from the controversial cameras.

• Waste management strike: Garbage service was stopped during Waste Management’s eight-day driver strike. In October, the city approved a $209,000 settlement with Waste Management for interrupted service.

• Threats to Obama: The U.S. Secret Service arrested a Federal Way man after he emailed an alleged death threat to President Obama. A witness said the suspect was wearing an "ammunition belt like Rambo" and was armed with a shotgun when law enforcement arrived. Federal Way police were called to assist the Secret Service at about 2 p.m. Tuesday. The suspect was taken into custody at the Panther Ridge Apartments, 109 S. 337th Lane.

Sept. 2012

• Federal Way 9/11 memorial: South King Fire and Rescue's station 64 hosted a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning for a 9/11 memorial in Federal Way. The station, 3700 S. 320th St., will be the site of the memorial, which will honor nearly 3,000 victims who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The memorial will feature a steel beam from the wreckage of the World Trade Center, along with names of all the victims. The South King Firefighters Foundation is collecting donations and arranging in-kind contributions. The project is expected to cost about $25,000. The goal is to finish the project by Sept. 11, 2013.

• Garbage transfer station: The King County Solid Waste Division (KCSWD) was looking for new sites to build a garbage transfer station. The county wants to replace the garbage and recycling transfer station at Algona. Federal Way residents and leaders spoke out against the city's inclusion on a list of possible sites. Federal Way was eventually removed from the list.

• Two Federal Way teens die while hiking near North Bend: Andrew Lusink, 16, and Ben Skagen, 18, were killed Sept. 16 after falling during a hike near Otter Falls in the Snoqualmie National Forest outside of North Bend. Both boys had attended Christian Faith School. The school honored the students with a prayer assembly this morning.

Oct. 2012

• We Day announcement: Canadian activist Craig Kielberger returned to Federal Way High School on Oct. 2 to lead the announcement of the first We Day in the United States. We Day will make its U.S. debut March 27 at Key Arena in Seattle, featuring keynote speaker Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. More celebrity speakers will be unveiled as the event nears. There are no tickets to buy. Students earn their way into We Day by doing local and global deeds. Federal Way High School led a We Scare Hunger collection drive Oct. 31. Teens trick-or-treated for canned goods to benefit the Multi-Service Center Food Bank.

• Crystal Way developer misses deadline for downtown site: Crystal Way developer ARCADD Inc. missed another deadline in its dealings with Federal Way. After Oct. 2 came and went, the Massachusetts-based company was unable to come up with $150,000 in earnest money as part of the purchase and sale agreement to develop the former AMC Theaters site downtown. The project called for residential, commercial and public open space.

• Federal Way picks Lorax Partners to develop arts center: The Federal Way City Council has picked Seattle-based developer Lorax Partners to begin the first stages of work for the proposed performing arts and conference center (PACC) in downtown Federal Way. Lorax Partners was chosen over ARCADD Inc., the Massachusetts-based company that proposed the ambitious "Crystal Way" project for another part of the city's downtown core.

• Federal Way teacher accused of sexual misconduct: Eli Thomas Godbolt, 33, was arrested Oct. 1 after a 17-year-old female student at Todd Beamer High School revealed that the two had a sexual relationship. Prosecutors charged Godbolt with two counts of first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor.

• Federal Way shoulders higher cost for regional jail: The SCORE jail facility is not meeting the projected use, and as a result, Federal Way is apparently paying a bigger chunk of the bill than expected. According to the city's numbers, the costs for the SCORE facility for the next two years will be $3.77 million in 2013, which includes a one-time cost of $1.53 million. In 2014, the facility will cost the city $3.75 million, with a one-time cost of $1.4 million associated with that year. This unexpected increase in costs means Federal Way is shouldering almost 25 percent of the total load for the facility, according to the city's projections.

• Wildlife agents hunt beavers to stop floods: State wildlife agents hunted and trapped four beavers in Federal Way over concerns of flooding on South 373rd Street. The rising water levels in the Hylebos Creek, as caused by beaver dams, pose a threat to the road's infrastructure and the safety of drivers.

Nov. 2012

• Election results: Federal Way City Councilmembers Linda Kochmar and Roger Freeman were elected to the state House of Representatives, leaving two vacancies to appoint. The Federal Way High School construction levy passed. The levy will also help fund improvements to the district’s security camera system and playground equipment at 19 elementary schools. Construction is expected to begin in 2014, and should last about three years. In hot statewide elections, voters approved ballot measures to legalize marijuana for recreational use and to legalize same-sex marriage. Jay Inslee defeated Rob McKenna in the race for governor.

• Light rail and transit: Sound Transit held an open house at Truman High School as the first step in the process of determining alternative solutions for increasing transit capacity for Federal Way and South King County. Sound Transit will be looking at light rail alignment (along Highway 99 vs. along I-5), mode of transportation, stations and locations, among other things. At the city council's Nov. 20 meeting, officials talked about the current process Sound Transit is undergoing in trying to make light rail a reality in Federal Way. Sound Transit is looking at pursuing federal funding to meet the tax revenue shortfall caused by the economic downturn that began in 2008.

• Federal Way teachers face training for student discipline: Federal Way teachers will undergo mandatory "cultural competency" training to curb inequities in student discipline. According to the statistics compiled by the district and the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), a stark disproportionality exists in the district when it comes to discipline for male students and African-American students.

• Boeing supplier Orion to leave Federal Way: Orion Industries announced it will move to a new location in Auburn next year after nearly 20 years in Federal Way. As a top supplier of parts for Boeing aircraft, Orion's economic future brims with promise. Orion employs 265 workers and reports 20 percent growth for the past 10 years. The non-profit manufacturing company specializes in job training and placement for people with disabilities.

Dec. 2012

• Comedian's meltdown: As part of a wild weekend in the region that ended with his arrest, comedian Katt Williams spent hundreds of dollars at the Federal Way Farmers Market. The eccentric comedian, rapper and actor also raised a ruckus at two Federal Way hotels.

• Boys and Girls Club: The Federal Way/Auburn Boys and Girls Club hosted an appreciation gathering Dec. 6 for executive director Shelley Puariea, who is transferring to the Ballard branch. She is swapping positions with Mark Hendricks, the new director for the Federal Way/Auburn branch.

• School of Distinction award: Federal Way Public Schools' Technology Access Foundation Academy (TAF) and Woodmont Elementary each received a 2012 School of Distinction award by the Center for Educational Effectiveness (CCE). Woodmont operates as a K-8 school and was recognized for its work in improving student achievement scores in grades 6-8. TAF was also recognized for increasing student achievement at the middle school grade levels.

• Veterans Memorial Garden of Puget Sound: The Federal Way School Board unanimously approved a decision to let Superintendent Rob Neu negotiate the placement of the Veterans Memorial Garden of Puget Sound on district property in the near future. A conceptual sketch proposes a large entrance to the garden, with a common area in the middle that could hold 200 to 300 people for veterans remembrance holidays. The concept sketch contained a therapy garden for veterans, and would also include a separate area for each branch of the military.

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