Snoqualmie Valley’s top stories of 2023

Here’s the year in review.

Jan. 2023

• Donaldson steps down as Fall City Community Association president: For the last three years, Angela Donaldson’s office at her Farmers Insurance branch has functioned like a de facto city hall. Situated between the Snoqualmie River and State Route 202, across from the town’s library and downtown business district, residents would frequently pop in, looking for help with community events, permitting or just about anything else. It was a responsibility Donaldson bore as president of the Fall City Community Association (FCCA), the community nonprofit that runs unincorporated Fall City in the absence of a proper local government.

• Ribail tapped as Carnation mayor: The Carnation City Council appointed Jim Ribail as its new mayor to replace Kim Lisk.

• Fall City gets funding to pursue new community center: Funding has been approved to begin exploring what it would take to open a community center in Fall City, following the adoption of King County’s biennial budget late last year. The $16.2 billion King County 2023-2025 Biennial Budget includes a $500,000 grant that will be used to study the feasibility of bringing a community center to Fall City. There has been a longstanding desire for a community center in town, and residents have been discussing it for decades.

• New mountain biking park breaks ground in North Bend: Construction is underway at a new park near Rattlesnake Mountain that will offer a new trail system designed for mountain biking, the Si View Metropolitan Parks District announced last week. Located south of I-90 (Exit 31, off of W. Ribary Way in North Bend), Tennant Trailhead Park is expected to bring several miles of new mountain biking trails that are approachable for beginning riders, but also provide connections to the larger Raging River trail system. Additional foot traffic trails will also be carved out.

Photo by Dylan Lockard/For the Valley Record
The 84th annual Snoqualmie Days festival Grand Parade held on Aug. 19.

Photo by Dylan Lockard/For the Valley Record The 84th annual Snoqualmie Days festival Grand Parade held on Aug. 19.

Feb. 2023

• School board names Schlotfeldt as permanent superintendent: The Snoqualmie Valley School Board of Directors has tapped Dan Schlotfeldt to be its next superintendent. Schlotfeldt was appointed in a unanimous vote by the board and had been serving as interim superintendent since September. Schlotfeldt is a long tenured district employee, having served in various roles since beginning his career as a teacher at Fall City Elementary in 1994. He was promoted to assistant superintendent in 2020.

• SnoValley Winds community band hosts first rehearsal since pandemic: After three years apart, members of the SnoValley Winds, the Valley’s community band, dusted off their instruments and held their first rehearsal since the COVID-19 pandemic. Welcoming faces old and new, the collective of musicians joined together inside the Snoqualmie Middle School band room on Monday night for the first time since 2019. Mike Herb, a Snoqualmie resident and band teacher at Silas High School in Tacoma, leads the band alongside his wife, April, a music teacher at Cascade View Elementary.

• Layoffs at Carnation prompt frustrations, possible litigation: The City of Carnation laid off four longtime employees a week after approving a new collective bargaining agreement, and the decision came to a head during a tense — and at times rowdy — city council meeting on Feb. 21. Residents say the turnover has been abrupt and has left the city without any institutional knowledge. Layoffs came only a week after the city council approved a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), following months of negotiations with Teamsters Local 736, a labor union that represents the four employees. The new agreement included a significant pay raise for employees. City officials said the added cost created a budget deficit that required layoffs to cut costs.

Photo by Conor Wilson/Valley Record
The Fall City Totem Pole is loaded on to a truck headed to Baxter Barn this past August.

Photo by Conor Wilson/Valley Record The Fall City Totem Pole is loaded on to a truck headed to Baxter Barn this past August.

March 2023

• Carnation Farmers Market secures new home, celebrates 20 years nourishing the community: Only a few years ago, Carnation was on the verge of losing its beloved farmers market, but the dogged work of a small group of volunteers has kept it alive. As the market prepares to open for its 20th consecutive season this summer — at its new home in Tolt McDonald Park — there are still hurdles to overcome. But following a challenging few years, the market is heading in the right direction. The Carnation Farmers Market is open 3 to 7 p.m. every Tuesday in June, July and August at Tolt McDonald Park.

• Carnation settles labor complaint, addresses layoffs: A labor complaint filed against the city of Carnation was settled for a small payout. On March 7, the Carnation City Council agreed to settle an unfair labor practice complaint and pay $3,240 to Teamsters Local 736, a labor union that represents city public works and clerical staff. The funds will cover the union’s legal fees, according to the agreement. The complaint is one of two the union has filed against the city over the past year.

• North Bend Film Fest to cease operations: Organizers behind the North Bend Film Fest announced the annual event is shutting down and will not return this summer. Organizers said they have decided to cease operations due to funding challenges. The festival’s last screening was on Aug. 7, 2022, showing the film “Please Baby Please.”

• Documents detail fatal police shooting in North Bend park: Around 11 p.m. Nov. 16, 2021, Snoqualmie Police Officer James Aguirre was pulling off East North Bend Way into Torguson Park. Aguirre was the only officer patrolling North Bend that night, and he was checking the city’s parks for after-hours stragglers. Inside the park, standing next to his 2001 Chevy Suburban, was 33-year-old Cody Rebischke. Less than 20 minutes after their first meeting, following an alleged altercation, Aguirre shot and killed Rebischke. A subsequent investigation cleared Aguirre of wrongdoing just over two months later. As a result, the King County Prosecutor’s Office declined to file criminal charges. But beyond clearing Aguirre, the nearly 300-page investigation — obtained by the Valley Record through a public disclosure request — provides a detailed account of what happened that night and the evidence gathered by police.

• North Bend council approves tax exemption for select housing projects: The North Bend City Council has approved a new ordinance that will provide property tax exemptions for select multifamily housing developments. Under the change, multifamily housing projects built in areas designated by the city council can receive 8 to 12 years worth of property taxes exemptions. City council members are hoping the change will spur the construction of more affordable housing units.

SnoValley Chamber of Commerce held the Snoqualmie International Block Party on The Ridge Saturday, Sept. 9. The event focused on the diversity and vibrant cultures in the Snoqualmie Valley. Photo courtesy of Lucid Layout Photography.

SnoValley Chamber of Commerce held the Snoqualmie International Block Party on The Ridge Saturday, Sept. 9. The event focused on the diversity and vibrant cultures in the Snoqualmie Valley. Photo courtesy of Lucid Layout Photography.

April 2023

• Snoqualmie looks to crack down on car theft through municipal court: The Snoqualmie City Council unanimously voted March 27 to make vehicle trespassing a misdemeanor offense, hoping the change will help police stop potential car theft in the city. Under the change, those who enter — or attempt to enter — a vehicle that does not belong to them can face a misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $1,000. According to data from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, vehicle theft has been on the rise since the pandemic. City officials say the new offense is intended to reprimand suspects who steal vehicles in Snoqualmie, but are not charged with felonies by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Snoqualmie Police have expressed concerns that the prosecutor’s office, which oversees the vast majority of felonies, has declined to prosecute a handful of the city’s vehicle theft cases. Prosecutors declined seven cases from Snoqualmie Police in 2021, according to the department.

• North Bend City Council approves new garbage contract: The North Bend City council approved a new 12-year garbage collection contract with Recology, a waste management provider. The city’s current contract expires next March. Customer rates under the new contract are expected to nearly double compared to what residents are currently paying. City officials say that is more a result of the economic climate and high inflation than the contract itself. The city chose not to sign another contract with Republic Services, its current provider, after having to pay $30,000 due to a service disruption last year. City officials said Republic refused to offer any repayment for that missed service.

• Voters reject hospital levy on special election ballot: Voters have overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that seeks to raise property taxes in support of the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital District. That outcome was clear from the get-go, after initial election results released on April 25 showed just 31% of the nearly 7,000 ballots tallied so far had voted for approval. In the days since, elections officials have counted about 3,500 additional ballots, bumping the approval vote by 2 percentage points, as of April 28. That is still well below the majority-threshold required for approval. As of April 28, 33.5% of registered district voters had submitted a ballot, on par with what officials predicted for the off-year special election. The Snoqualmie Valley Hospital District stretches from Snoqualmie Pass to the southern Duvall city limit, including the majority of the Snoqualmie Valley and a section outside Issaquah. It includes over 31,000 registered voters.

Photo by Conor Wilson/Valley Record
Greg Jamiel at the Carnation Pride Picnic on June 11.

Photo by Conor Wilson/Valley Record Greg Jamiel at the Carnation Pride Picnic on June 11.

May 2023

• County temporarily halts new subdivisions in Fall City: Fall City residents advocating for development reform scored a victory last week, as the county issued a temporary moratorium on new subdivisions in the rural town. For the next seven months, applications for residential subdivisions, meaning five or more lots, will be prohibited within Fall City’s boundary. The pause allows county officials to complete a work plan to study zoning, setbacks, rural character and land use ahead of major policy decisions. The work plan will help determine if additional regulation is needed for future Fall City developments. The moratorium comes amid an unprecedented influx of housing subdivisions being permitted throughout Fall City by Taylor Development, a Bellevue-based developer.

• North Bend Art & Industry members open a space of their own: To an outsider, the new home of North Bend Art & Industry may not look like much. With its plain white walls, wood trim and overhead lights, the roughly 200 square foot room, which the arts nonprofit now leases, feels more like a conference room for business types than a space for creativity and expression. Yet, after two years of searching, the room on Main Avenue near downtown North Bend finally gives Art & Industry members something they’ve never had before — a space to call their own. Over the past few years, Art & Industry members have worked to promote and connect local artists, teach classes and increase access to art in the region across a variety of mediums.

• Law enforcement apprehends Echo Glen escapees: Seven teenagers who escaped from the Echo Glen Children’s Center in Snoqualmie on May 28 were all apprehended. Charges were filed on June 1 by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office against one of the 16-year-olds for first-degree robbery and first-degree escape. That teen was serving a sentence for second-degree murder when he attempted to escape. Charges were filed against another teen, 16, for first-degree robbery, unlawful imprisonment, motor vehicle theft and first-degree escape. Two more teens, ages 16 and 17, were charged with the same crimes. The prosecutor’s documents noted that this was one teen’s second escape attempt from Echo Glen. That teen is serving a sentence for first-degree murder. Echo Glen, located near Snoqualmie Valley Hospital, is a medium-maximum security facility and rehabilitation center serving residents up to the age of 17. This past April, the DCYF received $8 million in state funds to make “necessary security upgrades.”

June 2023

• North Bend and Sallal finally approve water agreement: After nearly two decades of negotiations, the North Bend City Council approved a water supply agreement with the Sallal Water Association on June 6, seemingly ending a tumultuous period that has long dominated city politics. “This partnership between the Sallal Water Association and the City of North Bend ensures every property owner, every resident, every business, in our general service area has access to water,” North Bend Mayor Rob McFarland said. As soon as McFarland proclaimed the agreement’s unanimous 7-0 approval, the crowd inside the city hall chamber stood to applaud, with some intermittently sharing high fives.

• Community celebrates new mural on Main Avenue in North Bend: Homegrown artist Sarah Hughes can finally say she has painted her dream wall. Joined by elected officials, students, school employees and other community members in North Bend on June 1, Hughes held a ceremony to mark the completion of her newest mural. Covering the side of Pressed on Main, a new restaurant along Main Avenue, the artwork features iconic North Bend imagery and provides a pop of color to a previously blank wall. The mural was created as a partnership between Hughes and students at Two Rivers High School, her alma mater.

• SPU, Carnation investigating false alert from Tolt Dam warning system: Officials with Seattle Public Utilities are investigating what caused a siren linked to the Tolt Dam emergency warning system to mistakenly trigger earlier this week. On two separate occasions June 19, sirens connected to the Tolt River Dam Early Warning System went off and broadcast an evacuation message. The system is suppose to alert residents of failure on the Tolt Dam. A siren near town and a siren near the Tolt River’s edge went off for about ten minutes. The siren near river’s edge then went off a second time at 5:25 p.m. The dam and its reservoir are owned by the city of Seattle and provide drinking water to over 1.5 million Seattle-area residents. Carnation sits just 16 miles downstream. If the dam were to fail – which SPU stresses is unlikely – it could flood the city. SPU monitors the dam 24/7 and its automated alert system is designed to notify residents in the event of a failure. The alarms are tested by SPU each Wednesday.

The 84th annual Snoqualmie Days festival Grand Parade held on Aug. 19. (Photo by Dylan Lockard/For the Valley Record)

The 84th annual Snoqualmie Days festival Grand Parade held on Aug. 19. (Photo by Dylan Lockard/For the Valley Record)

July 2023

• Tollgate Farm Park opens barn on historic property: A new barn built at Tollgate Farm Park in North Bend was completed recently and park officials said it will soon become space for community agriculture classes, a farming incubator, a new farm stand and other projects. Tollgate Farm Park, located between State Route 202 and West North Bend Way, is a 410-acre historic farm property owned by the city of North Bend and maintained by the Si View Metropolitan Parks District. Historically, Tollgate Park served as a hunting ground for Indigenous people and later became a dairy farm and an orchard.

• Duvall removes ‘Pride Wall’ following appearance of white supremacist flag: Several LGBTQ+ leaders denounced the city of Duvall’s decision to take down a Pride-themed display downtown following the appearance of white supremacist symbols, saying its removal condones hateful behavior. City officials removed all signs, banners, flags and decorations from public “right-of-ways” in the early morning hours of July 21. The removed items included the Pride Wall, a series of ribbons strung along a fence near downtown that resembled a Pride Flag. The wall had been on display outside of Valley Mail for over a year as a partnership between an LGBTQ+ group and local businesses. Removal of the Pride Wall and other decorations came two days after a flag used by far-right extremists was hung on a city-owned fence. This was the second reported instance of white supremacist material circulating in the lower Valley this summer. The previous month, several fliers with ties to a “White Lives Matter” group were spread in Carnation and Monroe. Pride Flags were also stolen from businesses in Carnation on two separate instances.

Aug. 2023

• Documents reveal Snoqualmie Police Chief Phipps resigned at request of mayor: Former Snoqualmie Police Chief Perry Phipps — who resigned last month after nearly six years with the city — did so at the request of Mayor Katherine Ross, according to documents obtained by the Valley Record. A separation agreement, also obtained via a records request, was signed by Phipps and approved unanimously by the city council on July 24. The city announced Phipps’ resignation in a press release on June 27, a week prior to his last day with the city. It is unclear why the city asked Phipps, a nearly 40-year-veteran of the force, to step down. Under his tenure, dating back to 2017, the city had routinely been recognized as one of safest in Washington. Alongside Phipps, several other department heads have left the city in 2023. Departures include City Administrator Mike Sauerwein, Attorney Bob Sterbank and Fire Chief Mark Correira. Sauerwein was fired “without cause” in May, after less than 18 months on the job.

• Fall City’s totem pole finds a new permanent home: Fall City’s iconic, yet controversial totem pole, erected nearly 90 years ago, was removed from its longtime home in Fall City’s business district early morning Aug. 14. Standing on the sidewalk near the Fall City Library or sitting in office chairs outside the Hauglie Insurance building, with coffee in hand, a dozen or so residents watched and took photos as workers began removing the pole around 8 a.m. Within an hour, the 43-foot-tall pole had been separated from its base along State Route 202, lifted by crane and put on a semi-truck. It will move to a new permanent home at Baxter Barn, a historic farm property on the outskirts of town.

• Old Preston Mill building awarded King County Landmark status: The Kiln Building, a remnant of the defunct Preston Mill Company, has been named a King County Landmark, skirting fears of demolition of the early 20th century building. Landmark status was awarded in June by the King County Landmarks Commission. The 4,700-square-foot, concrete Kiln building is at the lower end of what is now Preston Mill Park. Built in roughly 1910, the structure was used to dry larger logs before they could be processed. The Kiln Building is one of three remaining structures still standing from the Preston Mill Company, which was founded by Swedish-American immigrants in 1896. In 1997, King County acquired the property and cleared most of the structures, according to the historical society.

• Lower Valley gets first affordable senior housing: For decades it had been the same tired story for seniors living in the Snoqualmie Valley. When it came time to downsize to a smaller home — because their current dwelling was too costly or a burden to maintain — it forced them out of the community. Affordable small homes or apartments were basically nonexistent. Now, at least some of those people, “who’ve lived here their whole lives,” says Kira Avery, executive director of the Sno-Valley Senior Center in Carnation, “will get to stay.” Achieving the dream of many at the senior center, Avery and other leaders broke ground on a 15-unit apartment complex, delivering unprecedented affordable housing to local seniors. Located adjacent to the senior center, off Commercial Street, the one-bedroom units will serve those 55 and older, including income-eligible veterans, who are low or extremely low income.

Sept. 2023

• Seattle leaders to fix false alarm problems at Tolt Dam: Representatives for the mayor of Seattle came to the Carnation City Council meeting Sept. 19 to apologize for recent failures on the Tolt Dam Warning System and announced a series of changes aimed at mitigating future mishaps. The meeting comes as Carnation officials have publicly expressed displeasure with recent failures of the dam’s warning system over the past month, including a recent speech at the Seattle City Council meeting. They are imploring the city of Seattle, which owns the dam, to take recuperative action. The warning alarm is designed to sound during a failure of the Tolt Dam — which would inundate the city under an estimated 30 foot wave — but has gone off erroneously three times in the past few months and six times in the past three years. Some of those false alarms, including the most recent one on Aug. 22, came as technicians were performing work on the alert system and accidentally sent off the alarm.

North Bend Downtown Foundation announces new executive director: The North Bend Downtown Foundation, a nonprofit group aiming to revitalize the city’s downtown business core, hired its first paid executive director and unveiled its new office at the North Bend Train Depot. Since its founding in 2014, the volunteer-run foundation has worked to promote the city’s downtown core, has run a city visitor center and has helped organize events like Sip, Suds & Si and the North Bend Block Party. Leading the foundation is Jessica Self, who was hired using funds provided by the city of North Bend. Self runs a social media marketing and strategy group and has previously organized Snoqualmie Days and other community events.

Oct. 2023

Snoqualmie signs new jail contract with Sunnyside: Long-term inmates from the city of Snoqualmie can now be housed at an Eastern Washington jail, under a new contract officials say will bring significant savings to the city. The Snoqualmie City Council approved the change Oct. 9, inking a deal with the south-central Washington city of Sunnyside for access to its jail. The facility will be used for inmates with long-term sentences, meaning greater than 30 days, police said. The city currently houses its inmates at the Issaquah Jail — and SCORE Jail in Des Moines when beds are unavailable in Issaquah.

Decision on Snoqualmie Parkway jurisdiction deferred: Who owns the Snoqualmie Parkway and, more importantly, whether Snoqualmie taxpayers will be responsible for financing its future maintenance, will likely remain unanswered for a few years. Members of the Washington State Transportation Commission, a state-body who reviews transportation policy, voted unanimously to defer a final decision on the roadway’s jurisdiction until a state-wide study can be complete. Now, a final verdict is unlikely to happen before 2026 or 2027. City officials asked for the parkway to be designated as a state highway, shifting its ownership and future maintenance costs from the city to the Washington State Department of Transportation. Snoqualmie, as a small city, had for years struggled to fund improvements and maintenance on the parkway. Snoqualmie officials argue the parkway, due to its proximity to State Route 202, State Route 18 and I-90, functions as a state highway. Much of the damage done to the road is caused by pass-through truck traffic that generates no revenue or benefit to the city, they argue, putting city taxpayers on the hook for repairs.

Nov. 2023

• Fall City group files suit over housing developments: A Fall City neighborhood group has filed suit against King County and a Bellevue-based developer, challenging the recent approval of three housing development applications. Fall City Sustainable Growth (FCSG), a nonprofit group of about a dozen residents, filed the suit in King County Superior Court under the Land Use Petition Act on Oct. 23. They are asking for the court to overrule the approval of three preliminary housing subdivision applications from last month that they argue are inconsistent with the rural character requirement of the King County Comprehensive Plan.

Miller elected North Bend Mayor; pool levy fails: North Bend City Councilmember Mary Miller has been elected as the town’s next mayor, narrowly defeating one-term incumbent Rob McFarland. And for the third time in four years, voters have shot down a Si View Parks property tax levy looking to build a new community pool. A majority of voters – 56% as of Nov. 17 – cast ballots in support of the levy, but the measure needs to meet 60% approval to pass. The result is similar to past property tax levies Si View put on the ballot in 2020 and 2022. Those measures won 56% and 57% approval respectively, with the latter failing by less than 200 votes. The rejection means Si View is likely to lose out on a $4 million grant from King County Parks. The grant funds were awarded for to Si View for the pool expansion.

Dec. 2023

• North Bend purchases land downtown for affordable housing: The city of North Bend is in the process of acquiring a mostly vacant piece of land near downtown that it plans to develop into affordable housing units. The North Bend City Council unanimously approved the land purchase last month, at a cost of $665,000, according to city documents. The property was purchased using real estate and excise taxes. Officials are hoping the property at 230 Main Ave., only a few blocks away from the downtown core on North Bend Way, can alleviate some of the city’s need for workforce housing and provide units to downtown workers.

North Bend exits Water Conservation Ordinance: After a stream of steady rainfall and flooding, the city of North Bend announced Dec. 7 that it had exited its annual Water Conservation Ordinance (WCO). Water levels in the Snoqualmie River are likely to remain above minimum instream flows for the remainder of the year, the city said in a press release announcing the end of the WCO. The WCO is an effort by the city to conserve water and protect the health of the Snoqualmie River. The program, now in its fourth year, goes into effect each August. It asks residents to voluntarily reduce water usage to help maintain minimum water levels in the Snoqualmie River.

Carnation officials meet with Seattle reps over Tolt Dam: Carnation officials held a meeting with representatives from Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s office on Dec. 8, as they continue to request compensation for risks they incur living beneath the Tolt River Dam. In a statement announcing the meeting, the city said it would “like to see compensation attached to the risks” of living beneath the Tolt Dam as well as other community benefits. That could include franchise or mitigation fees, fines for false alarms on the dam’s alert system, or funding for annual evacuation drills, the city said. “The time for excuses and explanations is over,” Mayor Jim Ribail said.

Photo by Conor Wilson/Valley Record
Marshall Law Band frontman Marshall Hugh screams into the crowd at the BrodieNation Music festival outside Carnation on July 22.

Photo by Conor Wilson/Valley Record Marshall Law Band frontman Marshall Hugh screams into the crowd at the BrodieNation Music festival outside Carnation on July 22.