ARLINGTON – From breaking ground on casino expansions, kiddie splash pads and a community solar panel array to laying the groundwork for a thriving job center and pulling the vulnerable from a life of homelessness and opioid abuse, there were plenty of stories readers took to heart in Arlington in 2018.
Here are the Top 10 local news stories that grabbed headlines in The Arlington Times, lit up comment boards and had people sharing links and re-tweeting online.
10. PUD breaks ground on Arlington Microgrid and Clean Technology Center
Snohomish County PUD broke ground on the $9.5 million center. It includes a multi-acre segment that would cover the ground with a 500-kilowatt array of 1,800 solar panels tied in with a proposed community solar program. The array will generate the hugest volume of solar energy in the PUD’s service area. The complex is on 25 acres east of the Arlington Airport at 17601 59th Ave. NE. The project will feature a vehicle-to-grid charging station for PUD’s electric fleet, a substation and backup data center, and later an office and training center. The center will provide educational opportunities for the business sector, industry researchers, local agencies and schools. Most features will come online this year and into 2020.
9. Pilot Travel Center at Island Crossing
Travelers and truckers along Interstate 5 near Arlington has a new place to gas up and eat. The complex on 12.6 acres west of the triangle-shaped intersection at Highway 530 and Smokey Point Boulevard is sure to boost retail activity off Exit 208, but that also means more vehicles in a corridor that already sees more than 19,000 vehicles per day. The 9,520-square-foot Travel Center will feature a drive-through Arby’s, Cinnabon, PJ Fresh, retail space, outdoor seating, eight truck fueling lanes, 12 gas fuel pumps for cars and three for recreational vehicles, parking and a CAT scale for trucks and parking. The Travel Center will create about 70 jobs. Officials hope to put in a traffic signal at Highway 530 and Smokey Point Boulevard in June. Longer-term traffic improvements are under discussion.
8. Video leads to arrest of 2 in murders
Two men, one found near Arlington near Blue Stilly Park on the Stillaguamish River and the other in Mukilteo, were tortured, then shot to death. The main defendant in the killings, Anthony Hernandez-Cano, 18, pleaded guilty Aug. 27 to two counts of aggravated murder. He will serve life in prison with no chance of patrol in the executions of Mohamed Adan of Seattle and Ezekiel Kelly of Everett. Passersby found Adan’s body July 1 near Blue Stilly Park west of Arlington. He had been stripped, bashed in the head, burned on his face and shot several times. He was 21. Security cameras at a fire station near the park captured images of a car belonging to Hernandez-Cano’s girlfriend. Hernandez-Cano later admitted to the killings and rode with police to show them the places where the two men were beaten and killed. Hernandex-Cano believed both men had “snitched” on him when he violated a no-contact order with his girlfriend.
7. Stillaguamish Tribe opens new methadone treatment and healing center
Stillaguamish tribal leaders celebrated the opening in March, a vital center for treating addicts mired in the opioid crisis. The $14 million, two-story, 41,837-square-foot center is built on tribal trust land at 5700 172nd St. NE. It will provide outpatient services for those who report regularly for a dose of methadone, a synthetic opiate that helps people overcome drug addictions. The center opened with 35 employees, and expected that to double as demand dictated for a clientele of as many as 900 patients.
6. Stillaguamish Tribe breaks ground on $64 million cexpansion
The expansion of the Angel of the Winds Resort Casino is the largest in its history and two years in the making. When the project is completed next summer, “The World’s Friendliest Casino” will have added 275-300 slot machines; 12 table games and expansion of the casino’s “high-limit” space; a 200-seat buffet and private dining options; 28,000 square feet of entertainment that features 9,000 square feet of multi-purpose space with seating for 700 that can house concerts, performances, conferences, meetings and private events; a 575-space parking garage; a trendy 12-lane bowling alley that will be integrated into the entertainment area; and a center bar on the casino floor and renovation of existing space; and 60-seat steakhouse called Whiskey Prime, which will also feature seafood. The expansion was to add 150 new casino resort jobs, creating an employee base of 750.
5. Arlington teachers union, district pay woes
Like several teachers unions across Washington state, teachers here rallied outside the Arlington Public Schools administration building seeking a double-digit pay raise, as contract negotiations begun in March with teachers and classified employees went down to the first day of school Sept. 5. Classes started on schedule, and by the end the month two-year contracts were approved that gave teachers a pay raise of 11 percent in the current school year and 3 percent next year.
4. Work begins on Haller Park Splash Pad
Kids grabbed ceremonial city shovels and turned over dirt during 4th of July festivities for the long-awaited Splash Pad at Haller Park, and Reece Construction got under way in earnest in September. The $1.3 million project was funded by the Rotary Club of Arlington, Stillaguamish Tribe and Friends of the Splash Pad. Construction includes a 3,300-square-foot spray deck with additional seating areas. The surface is river-themed with colored concrete representing a river, and themed equipment such as river otters, salmon, cattails and ducks. Completion is anticipated by March 31, with a grand opening later in the spring.
3. Arlington-Marysville Manufacturing Industrial Center
The Arlington City Council approved in December the MIC subarea plan, a guiding document for development and a critical step in the area’s goals to become a designated regional jobs center. Arlington and Marysville are working to gain regional MIC designation from the Puget Sound Regional Center, which could create as many as 25,000 family wage jobs by 2040, and add roads to reduce traffic congestion. The 4,019 acres generally covers Arlington Municipal Airport east-northeast to downtown Arlington, and the Smokey Point area, including north Marysville. The cities in mid-January will apply jointly to the PRSC for regional designation as an MIC. Designation could come as early as June. Arlington officials also are excited about Opportunity Zone status for the MIC under a new federal tax incentive program that is yet another economic development tool that will make the area more attractive to private investment and venture capitalists.
2. Arlington schools bonds fails twice
Arlington Public Schools ran a construction and security bond measure in February and November and while more than half the voters approved it each time, it failed, unable to reach the required 60 percent supermajority for passage. The need isn’t going away and costs aren’t going to get any cheaper, so the Arlington School Board recently approved running a leaner bond in the February special election. They reduced the amount from $107.5 million to $96 million. The new proposal will focus on improving safety and security at all schools, build an improved Post Middle School on the same site as the current one, and add eight classrooms to a crowded Arlington High School. The total local schools tax rate would be one-third less than the tax rate paid in 2018.
1. Arlington police’s embedded social worker program.
Arlington took several steps to address drug addiction, opioid-related overdose deaths and homelessness, but none more promising than the embedded social worker program. The city’s Community Outreach Team, made up of Arlington police officer Ken Thomas and embedded social worker Britney Sutton, is assisting the homeless with alcohol or drug addiction – mainly opioids – and untreated mental illness to get them off the streets and back on their feet again.
They take a compassionate approach to build trust with individuals they meet, but caution them that enforcement is not far behind as an alternative. Arlington’s team is part of the sheriff’s North County Office of Neighborhoods Unit, which includes a similar Marysville team. Both teams hope to reduce the likelihood of reoffending or incarceration. Arlington has helped dozens of individuals complete substance abuse evaluations, treatment and get into housing.