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2016: The year in review

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The city of Fife has continued to grow and change for decades, and 2016 was no different. The Fife Free Press looks back at the biggest twists and turns of the year.
Winston Marsh elected Mayor of Fife
Fife City Council selected councilmember Winston Marsh to serve as mayor for the next two years, unseating former Mayor Tim Curtis with a 5-2 vote during the opening minutes of the Jan. 12 meeting. Curtis had been seeking reappointment, but only received support from councilmember Dierdre “Dee-Dee” Gethers.
Council members Brian Yambe, Kim Roscoe, Pat Hulcey and Lew Wolfrom backed Marsh. Following the vote, Curtis and Marsh simply switched seats and handed over the gavel.
“I am nervous as hell,” Marsh said. “I am very excited for the opportunity the council has given me.” The council then voted for the position of deputy mayor. That vote was unanimous since only current Deputy Mayor Hulcey received a nomination. Roscoe had tried to nominate Curtis, but he declined.
Hulcey is now going into his third term as deputy mayor. He has served on the Council since 2010.

Memorial Fountain Park completed

Fife's Memorial Fountain Park was officially completed and opened to the public in 2016. On Feb. 16, Mayor Winston Marsh and former Mayor Mike Kelley had the honor of cutting the ribbon and turning on the fountain for its unveiling ceremony.
Fife's Memorial Fountain has been a Fife fixture since 1914. The fountain has been with Fife since before it was officially recognized as a city on Feb. 11, 1957. The fountain originally served as a watering station for horses and was located at what is now the busy intersection of 54th and 20th.
A plaque on the Fountain from 1989 reads: "Originally a picturesque water trough for horses, the structure was built by the merchants of the four street corners and allowed the horses to drink and rest while the owners shopped and visited at the growing agricultural and business center of Fife Square.”

Plans for Sound Transit 3 move forward after voter input

The Sound Transit Board is moving forward with a revised package of mass transit projects around Puget Sound that swayed voters this fall. The revised Sound Transit 3 package will speed up several key projects in Pierce County, including the routing of a rail through Fife.
A vote of residents in the urbanized areas of Snohomish, King and Pierce counties in November made the plan official. Voters approved Sound Transit 2 in 2008. The first mass transportation package, that formed the regional transit agency, passed in 1996.
ST3’s estimated cost of $54 billion in transit projects will be largely paid for through higher sales taxes, added car tab fees and increased property taxes. The average adult would pay about $17 a month, or $200 a year, in higher taxes.

Fisher selected as new police chief

Pete Fisher was appointed as Fife’s police chief and sworn in on March 28.
City Manager Subir Mukerjee designed a community-led hiring process and said that although all candidates brought outstanding credentials, Fisher stood out for his sense of ethics, community relations background and thirst for new knowledge.
“Fisher was a top candidate throughout our rigorous hiring process,” Mukerjee said. “He brings an outstanding skill set that will truly complement the work of our Police Department.”
Mukerjee selected Fisher following panel interviews with community members, law enforcement officials from surrounding agencies and elected officials after Puyallup Police Capt. Scott Engle was selected earlier this year only to later decline the offer and stay in Puyallup.
Fisher was on the short list of candidates when Engle was selected but was never sworn in. Fisher replaces former Police Chief Mark Mears, who left the department in 2015 to serve as the deputy director of South Sound 911. Mears had served the City of Fife since 2006, first as Assistant Chief of Police then as Chief of Police in 2014, when he replaced Brad Blackburn.

Fife High School celebrates 100th anniversary

2016 marked the 100th anniversary of Fife high School, and the school celebrated with events all year that culminated at Homecoming in October. The celebration paid homage to the success of the high school and the community that allowed it to flourish.
“Fife High School has really been the centerpiece of the community for a long, long time The district is a good way to keep the community together and move forward and we want to make sure it stays that way for the next 100 years,” chair of the Fife High Alumni Committee Kevin Ringus said.

State Route 167 design moving along

All the commuters, truck drivers, Pierce County residents and businesses out there wondering about the extension of State Route 167 to Port of Tacoma Road from its current dead end in Puyallup had opportunities in March to learn the latest news at two open houses.
WSDOT is in the process of updating environmental reports, buying land needed for the project and filing for permits and contracts. The state transportation department, for example, still has to buy about 30 percent of the land along the route. This remaining third of the land will cost about half of the $250 million estimated for the total land required.
Construction is set to being in July 2019 and will likely continue through 2031.
The planned SR 167 extension is projected to cost $933 million and will be funded through the $16 billion Connecting Washington transportation package that lawmakers approved last year. The road would start at the current junction of SR 167 and SR 161 (Meridian) to tie into Interstate 5, according to state reports. This project also includes the construction of a two-mile connection from I-5 to SR 509. These improvements will provide two lanes in each direction from Tacoma to Edgewood and Puyallup.

Fife Museum on the rise

The year saw the continued growth of the Fife History Museum. The staff at the museum, including Managing Director Julie Watts, have continued to expand the museum by continuing to gather artifacts from Fife’s history. This year saw a push to collect yearbooks missing from the museum’s collection to coincide with Fife High School’s centennial. The museum recently honored the last remaining member of Fife’s original city council, Frank Schnide,r with the christening of the “Schnider Room” dedicated to artifacts requiring low humidity conditions.

Prologis Park moves forward

This year saw the beginning stages of Prologis Park, a new 1.7 million square foot multi-industrial warehouse/distribution development on 80 acres of Port of Tacoma property located at 5200 12th St. E. and State Route 509. The First phase of the development is under construction now.
The Port of Tacoma Commission approved a 50-year lease with Prologs in June 2015 with a possibility of a 25-year lease extension. The facilities will be used for distribution, warehousing, logistics or light manufacturing. Anywhere from 500 to 1,000 temporary construction and permanent jobs will be created depending on final building size and tenant mix.

LNG plant brings worries to residents

The legal challenges surrounding the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in the works for Tacoma’s tideflats continue to chug through legal reviews.
The Puyallup Tribe sued to stop the plant with the legal argument that the environmental review last year failed to properly address the impacts the plant would have of the salmon-bearing waterway. Specifically, the tribe worries that construction of the facility would churn up the soil at the Superfund cleanup site. That soil could then leak into the waterway and threaten fish runs and the nearby tribal marina.
A critic of the plant has found himself in court to gain information about how the plant’s potential hazards and how the Tacoma Fire Department would respond to a fire or explosion at the plant. City officials were going to release the information, but Puget Sound Energy wants to block the release, arguing that making the plans public could make the facility a target for terrorist attacks. Red Line Tacoma activist John Carlton sought the details so the environmental group could better understand the potential destruction a blast or fire could have on the surrounding area. He questions how a plant that stores 8 million gallons of liquefied natural gas that could expand to 4.8 billion gallons of vapor could possibly not affect its neighbors as PSE claims.

Railroad crossing talks continue

Discussions continued surrounding the road crossing at the Union Pacific Railroad tracks at 54th Avenue. There is an-at-grade crossing there now, but has been fenced off for decades as part of a deal between the city and Fife School District that led to the construction of Columbia Junior High School. An underpass to meet current safety standards would cost between $25 million and $50 million.
The only ways to cross from the south side of Fife to the rest of the city are at Frank Albert Road, 70th Avenue and Freeman Road. Those roads were adequate when the area was largely undeveloped but growth of planned communities and business centers since the 54th Avenue crossing was closed has brought many people in the neighborhood to call for it to be reopened to car traffic.
The seemingly “simple” solution of reopening the at-grade street crossing at 54th Avenue is far from it because of an agreement between the city and school district and oversight of railroad crossings themselves. The city had filed plans to open the at-grade crossing in 2009 only to withdraw the application after railroad and state regulators voiced their concerns. The railroad has since been given the greenlight by state officials to build a siding track in the area that will extend through the 54th Avenue crossing and mean more train cars will flow over the tracks. That makes an at-grade crossing even less likely because of safety concerns. But city, school and Puyallup Tribe officials continue to talk about options.