2008 - A Year in Review

A lot happened in 2008 in Polk County -- here's a summary


Renovation project: Central High School will undergo a major face lift after voters approved a $47.3 million bond.

Here's a month-by-month summary of some of the new stories that made headlines in 2008 in the Itemizer-Observer:


U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden holds a town forum in Monmouth, where residents share concerns over health care reform, the war in the Middle East, and continuation of federal timber payments ... Monmouth Senior Center hopes to expand its building ... Funding for the Polk Interagency Narcotics Team (POINT) is in jeopardy due to proposed budget cuts resulting from the possible loss of federal timber payments ... City of Dallas considers creating a historian position ... Independence examines future water needs ... A $250 home-based business fee is debated in Monmouth ... Ken Jacroux is named First Citizen at the 51st annual Dallas Community Awards Ceremony ... The editor-in-chief of Western Oregon University's campus newspaper accuses WOU administrators of meddling with the student press ... Community business leaders initiate the Dallas School District's monthly "Distinguished Educator" award program ... Wolverton Memorial Swimming Pool at WOU is honored by the United States Water Fitness Association.


Polk County is represented in Super Bowl XLII as former Western Oregon University standout tight end Kevin Boss plays for the New York Giants ... Perrydale FFA is recognized with a national award for meeting the "Million Hour Challenge" for volunteer service ... An increase in cases of graffiti causes concern in Independence ... Judge William Horner takes over as the presiding judge in the Polk County Circuit Court ... Rep. Darlene Hooley announces she will not seek re-election to her United States Congress seat in the 5th District ... Boise Wood Products announces the sale of its 48-acre veneer mill site in north Independence to Oregon Alder Properties LLC. The sale could lead to the creation of 100 new jobs for the community ... Western Oregon University plans to add 18 faculty members in time for fall term due to enrollment growth and student retention ... Carol Cochran, who assists the Central School District through the Willamette Education Service District, is named the School Nurse of the Year by the National Association of School Nurses ... Independence continues examining expansion of its urban growth boundary.


Melini Altermatt and Adil Abounadi are selected the elementary and secondary teachers of the year by the Central Education Association ... Nicholas Tristian Walker of Monmouth is arrested for impersonating a law enforcement officer on the WOU campus. He was caught with a badge and gun ... Independence residents look at ways to deal with pesky nutria within the city limits ...Western Oregon University's College Bowl team advances to the national championships ... Dallas School Board sends a construction bond request to voters ... Wine production is on the rise in Polk County, which ranks second or third in Oregon in most industry statistics ... More than 1,400 high-school students attend the Cesar E. Chavez Latino Student Leadership Conference at WOU ... Steve Moser and his family are named 2007 First Citizens of the Year at the Monmouth-Independence Community Awards Banquet ... Main Street Park Plaza, a multistory business and residential development planned for downtown Monmouth, is shelved.


Longtime Polk County assessor Dennis Day announces retirement plans ... A Dallas man's hoax of offering a baby for sale on the Internet lands him in jail for a short time before charges are dropped ... Thieves and vandals hit Monmouth Christian Church and Dallas United Methodist Church ... A statewide fiddler's convention comes to the Polk County Fairgrounds ... Independence tables plans to form a local improvement district in the downtown core after property owners complained about high costs ... Restoration of the Ritner Creek Covered Bridge near Pedee is celebrated ... Dallas High student-athlete Parker Stewart is on the road to recovery after being hit in the head by a discus during a freak accident at practice ... Tim Hinds retires after 30 years with the Monmouth Police Department ... A new state public disclosure law results in several resignations by members of area volunteer governmental boards, including nearly all of the Polk County Planning Commission.


A cold, wet spring hinders farmers and agricultural-related businesses in Polk County ... The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde celebrate the 135,000-square-foot expansion of Spirit Mountain Casino ... Nearly $88,000 is raised during the American Cancer Society Polk County Relay For Life ... The former site of Valsetz Lake is eyed for a future water reservoir ... Western Oregon University students back a plan to help pay for a proposed $30 million campus recreation center ... The race for Polk County District Attorney goes to a November runoff after Stan Butterfield and Aaron Felton receive the highest percentage of votes in the primary ... A $92 million bond for Chemeketa Community College wins voter approval ... Monmouth residents will see increases in sewer, water and power rates ... City of Dallas approves a plan to reduce annual membership rates to stimulate business at the Dallas Aquatic Center ... Farmers in Polk County, like other parts of Oregon, deal with the theft of irrigation equipment and other valuable metals.


Gas prices in Polk County hit all-time highs, with motorists paying more than $4 a gallon for unleaded and nearly $5 a gallon for diesel ... Monmouth and Independence deal with a rash of residential and business burglaries ... A farmers market plans to open for the summer in downtown Dallas ... Eola Hills Wine Cellars acquires 162 acres for expansion of operations in Polk County ... Garbage rates to rise 7.6 percent in Dallas ... A school-based community health clinic is in the works for Falls City ... Work begins on a highly anticipated six-lane, all-weather running track at Perrydale School ... Polk County awaits word on federal timber payments to fund local programs including the Extension Service and 4-H ... Cities of Monmouth and Independence approve a plan to back $3.7 million in loans to the Monmouth-Independence Network (MINET) ... Two bears that had been causing problems in the Pedee and Kings Valley areas were euthanized at Fort Hoskins Park in northern Benton County ... Dallas Intercommunity Activity Network is formed to provide after-school, youth and community activities.


Seven juveniles are arrested for graffiti incidents in Independence ... A state report says the loss of federal timber payments would create a financial crisis for several Oregon counties, including Polk ... Big crowds turn out for the annual Western Days celebration in Monmouth and Independence ... Grant money rather than a bond request will pay for a new Dallas Senior Center ... Walt Dawson of Falls City is selected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention ... An Independence resident is working with the city to create a handicapped-accessible playground at Riverview Park ... Dallas School Board places a $79.5 million construction bond on the November ballot ... Budget cuts mean premium money is cut from this year's Polk County Fair ... ESPN's ESPY Awards honors Western Oregon softball player Sara Tucholsky and Central Washington players Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace with its "Best Sports Moment" for 2007-08 ... Newport's Rogue Brewery invests in a 275-acre hop farm in Independence ... Summerfest celebration is a big hit in Dallas ... WOU addressing housing shortage for students ... Polk County Commissioners overturn a hearing officer's decision that would have allowed a dirt bike track near Dallas, citing noise and dust issues for neighbors.


Polk County Extension Service looks at becoming its own taxing district to secure future funding ... Dallas begins its own dog licensing program for residents ... Schools in the region get mixed grades in federal "No Child Left Behind" criteria ... Attendance is up but revenue is down at this year's Polk County Fair ... City of Dallas examines the use of electric cars for city business ... Rising prices make wheat a lucrative crop once again for Polk County farmers ... Several Monmouth rental property owners voice frustration with city's policy regarding unpaid utility bills by tenants ... Independence looks at creating a commission to oversee operation of Riverview Park Amphitheater ... City of Dallas is working to create a dog park.


Dallas Police Chief Jim Harper retires after 30 years of service to the city ... Large numbers of students return to schools in the Central, Dallas, Falls City and Perrydale districts ... Independence will implement new rules to halt horseplay and misuse of the fountain at Riverview Park ... Falls City School District receives a five-year $700,000 grant through No Child Left Behind and the Oregon Department of Education ... Central School District is the recipient of a $785,000 grant for after-school programs through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative ... Polk County officials are disappointed to learn from ODOT that improvements to the intersection of Perrydale Road and Highway 22 is not a high priority for state funding ... Dallas resident Connor Guy is tragically killed in a canoeing accident on the Deschutes River southwest of Bend ... Dallas school officials select a site at Fir Villa Road and Ellendale Avenue for a possible new high school campus ... The future of the Buena Vista Ferry is in question due to financial issues ... Monmouth college student Keoki Kanakoa Rosmio is arrested after taking a city police car on a joyride.


Campaigns heat up in preparation for the November general election ... City of Dallas addresses concerns over the state of disrepair of the old Blue Garden restaurant building in downtown ... Former Dallas liquor store operator Michael Gene Mollgaard is sentenced on two counts of aggravated theft in the first degree after stealing money from the store ... Polk County's 2008 wine grape harvest looks promising ... Cherry Country of Rickreall is featured on a segment of "Road Tested With the Neelys" on Food Network ... Monmouth delays a plan to increase its building permit fees ... Rural property owners in Polk County see increases in their fire protection fees from the state ... No Polk County school receives a failing grade from the Oregon Department of Education's annual report card of state assessment scores ... Western Oregon University unveils its new nursing program during fall term. Twenty-six students are enrolled ... Ballots begin arriving in record numbers locally and statewide for the much-anticipated November general election ... Monmouth's City Council considers airing its meetings on live cable-access television ... Cities in Polk County make plans to detect and respond to possible signs of identity theft.


Independence puts off a plan to define who is a journalist and who should be granted access to covering City Council executive sessions ... Western Oregon eyes expansion into Salem's downtown district ... MINET operating costs rise 33 percent and revenues nearly double during the 2007-08 fiscal year ... Voters reject nearly every money measure on the Polk County ballot. Among local officials winning election were Brian Boquist (state senate), Jim Thompson and Vicki Berger (state representatives), and Kurt Schrader (U.S. Congress) ... Polk County examines a voluntary "modified work week" to save money and avoid potential layoffs in the future ... A directive from the Federal Aviation Administration could threaten future taxiway access between the Independence State Airport and the adjoining airpark ... Western Oregon University has record enrollment for fall term, with 5,349 students taking classes ... Tough economic times and increases in unemployment put a strain on local food banks and other service agencies ... Budget issues delay a proposed student-based health center in Falls City ... Population estimates from Portland State University's Population Research Center show that Polk County's population growth rate has slowed to 1.1 percent annually.


The Rickreall Christmas Pageant celebrates 68 years of existence ... James Riley Porter Jr. of Dallas is arrested in connection with 22 arson fires in Dallas. He pleads not guilty to all charges ... Some Independence residents are irritated over the use of propane cannons to scare Canada geese off local grass seed farms. The city council later bans the noise cannons ... A site southwest of Monmouth on Zumwalt Road is under consideration for a new national cemetery ... Independence Elementary alumns donate $60,000 to the school ... Polk County district attorney-elect Stan Butterfield appoints Sally Avera as deputy chief district attorney ... Winter hadn't officially arrived according to the calendar, but a mid-December storm featuring snow and freezing rain hits Polk County hard, closing schools and some businesses and making commutes to work a challenge ... City of Dallas eyes a redevelopment boost to its downtown core ... More than 160,000 pounds of food is collected during Perrydale's annual food drive.

--Compiled by Kurt Holland


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