Year starts with controversial report, shooting

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SANDPOINT — From a controversial Greenprint report and an officer-involved shooting to a mountain rescue and the swearing in of new county officials, there has been no shortage of news in Bonner County.

And that was just in January.

As we get ready to step into 2018, it is a good time to take a look back at 2017. This is the first part of a series of articles looking back at the top local stories of the year, starting with January. Stories are listed in no particular order.

• Six people were escorted to safety on New Year’s Day after their all-terrain vehicles became mired in deep snow in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains overlooking Lake Pend Oreille, according to Priest Lake Search & Rescue.

The group, which was in phone contact with authorities, reported that they were attempting to ascend a steep hill in a track-mounted utility terrain vehicles using a winch, but said they were running low on fuel and oil, a PLSAR news release said.

Search teams located the group shortly before 7 a.m. on Sunday. The group managed to extricate themselves and used their machines sparingly to keep warm, but didn’t have enough fuel to make it back to the Gold Creek Lodge south of Lakeview. Search teams provided the group with the necessary fuel and escorted them back to the lodge.

• Two Bonner County sheriff’s deputies were injured on Jan. 16 in an exchange of gunfire with an armed suspect.

The deputies were later identified as Michael R. Gagnon, 53, who was reported to be in serious condition at Kootenai Health, and Justin Penn, 30, who was reported in stable condition.

The suspect was identified as 30-year-old Adam Deacon Foster, who was also taken to Kootenai Health for surgery after being struck by gunfire during the confrontation. A third deputy, William T. Craffey, 47, was involved in the incident but was not injured.

Bonner County EMS officials were summoned to an advanced life-support call at 780 Mountain View Road at 11:33 a.m., an EMS run report stated. Mountain View Road is located off the Blanchard-Elk Road, near the Washington state border.

Officials said the deputies were serving a warrant when they exchanged gunfire with Foster.

There had been police activity in the 700 block of Mountain View, according to online Bonner 911 dispatch reports, which were removed from the web the night of the shooting. Prior to its removal, however, the dispatch log showed that deputies were summoned to the 700 block for a welfare check on Dec. 16, 2016. A family offense in that block was reported on Jan. 10, 2017 and one of the deputies who was reportedly involved in Monday’s shooting conducted follow-up on the family offense call on Jan. 11, 2017.

Outside of motorist-related infractions and a misdemeanor, Foster had no prior criminal record in Idaho, according to the state supreme court data repository.

Penn was released from the hospital on Jan. 19, while Gagnon remained in serious condition in the hospital. It was a week after the incident before Gagnon was released. As he returned home, he did so in the midst of a lengthy procession of public safety vehicles from around the region as his escorts.

Gagnon waved as onlookers, which included Bonner County Courthouse employees, gathered on the sidewalk to clap in appreciation as the procession of police, fire and conservation vehicles snaked its way through downtown.

Foster was released from the hospital on Jan. 24 and booked into the Kootenai County Public Safety Building, held on a warrant of detention out of Bonner County. Two days later he faced two, first-degree attempted murder charges and a $2 million bail.

• Mechanical failure was ruled out as the cause of a plane crash in the Cabinet Mountains that killed three people, including aviator and entrepreneur Dr. Pam Riddle Bird.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a factual report on Jan. 11 regarding the Oct. 8, 2015, crash near Hope. An analysis of the engine aboard Bird’s 1975 Cessna 182P concluded that it appeared to be in good working order. The report also appeared to rule out other forms of mechanical failure and the plane underwent its annual inspection on Sept. 27, 2015.

“The wreckage examination identified no anomalies or malfunctions of the airplane or engine that would have precluded normal operation,” the report said.

Bird, 59, was presumed killed in the crash. Her remains were never recovered, although federal investigators said in the report that her remains were completely consumed by a post-crash fire that laid waste to the cockpit. The remains of Don Hensley, 80, and his 84-year-old wife, Tookie, were positively identified through dental records, according to a Bonner County Sheriff’s Office report.

• Blanchard Rep. Heather Scott published a statement on her Facebook page on Jan. 12 after she was temporarily relieved of her three House of Representatives committee assignments.

“The people of my district sent me to Boise to shake up the good old boy system. And I call it like I see it. Too much has been hidden from the citizens and they deserve to know what is going on in their government. The words I used to express a legitimate concern may have been too harsh, and I apologize for that as I never intended to offend anyone,” Scott said in the statement.

Scott was stripped of her legislative committee assignments after reportedly commenting to another female lawmaker that women only move up in the Legislature by trading sexual favors.

• The "Greater Sandpoint Area Greenprint" failed to garner support in January from City Council members after several community members came forward with concerns regarding the community engagement and purpose of the report.

The main concern was that most individuals had not heard of the approximately 35-page Greenprint report until it was placed on the City Council meeting agenda. They also questioned the intent of the report, which details areas of the county prioritized for land conservation.

Aaron Qualls, the city's planning and economic development director, said the Greenprint is a way to prioritize areas for voluntary land conservation and can also help with grant opportunities. He assured council members that the Greenprint is not a "plan" and is not a federal- or state-instigated plan. He said it is simply information in a report.

Finalized in 2016, the Greenprint report was initiated in 2014 coordinated by the Idaho Conservation League, Kaniksu Land Trust, the Trust for Public Land and the planning departments for the cities of Sandpoint and Ponderay. It focuses on 94,500 acres including Sandpoint, Ponderay, Kootenai, Dover, Hope, East Hope, and spanning even further into Bonner County to include much of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest and Selkirk recreation areas. The four main goals of the Greenprint are to maintain water quality in the study area, provide recreation, protect wildlife habitat and preserve working lands.

Council members voted unanimously to postpone the resolution to support the Greenprint until the first council meeting in February, so more people in the Greenprint area can read the report and respond.

• With about 75 people in attendance, It was standing room only in the meeting room at the Bonner County Administration Building on Jan. 9 as Jeff Connolly and Dan McDonald were sworn in as the county commissioners. The ceremony also served as a farewell to outgoing commissioners Cary Kelly and Todd Sudick, as wells as a farewell to Kathryn "Kit" Rose, who resigned from her position as Bonner County Coroner.

The new Bonner County Coroner, Robert Beers, was sworn into office in a well-attended ceremony on Jan. 24.

Beers, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former Sandpoint Police officer, expressed his gratitude to Jesus, his wife and kids, the police department, Prosecutor Louis Marshal, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Shane Greenbank, Sheriff Daryl Wheeler, Diane Wheeler, Det. Eric Ryan and Rose, who he described as a “selfless” public servant who was never allergic to her phone’s ringtone.

“I can’t recall a time you didn’t answer your phone,” Beers said of his interactions with Rose over the years.

• Sandpoint High School counselor Jeralyn Mire met former First Lady Michelle Obama. As Idaho's 2016 High School Counselor of the Year, Mire was chosen to represent the state at the national event.

During the First Lady's final official address to the nation, Mire was not only positioned just behind and to the right of Obama, she was one of three counselors embraced by the First Lady at the end of the speech.

"It was absolutely one of the most inspiring, just absolutely jaw dropping, experiences ever," Mire said.

• During their first meeting of the new year, Lake Pend Oreille School District trustees finalized the ballot measure for the March 14 supplemental levy.

For a total of $17 million, the district sought to levy uneven dollar amounts for the two-year term at $8.3 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017, and ending June 30, 2018, and $8.7 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2018, and ending June 30, 2019.

Supplemental levies fund approximately one-third of the district’s budget.

• After a bit of a traveling mishap that required two sixth-grade teachers to take a late night tour of Boise to get some glue and other supplies, eight Washington Elementary students successfully participated in the state's Future City competition on Jan. 21.

The project models were damaged during the plane ride to Boise, but the students got them all fixed up in time for the competition, returning to Sandpoint with awards to show for it. And all eight of the sixth-graders who went to Boise summed up their experience with one word — "awesome."

In addition to the two teams from Washington Elementary, three teams from Sandpoint Middle School competed at the state competition as well. All five Sandpoint teams brought home awards, ranging from “Best Industrial/Commercial Layout” to “Best Futuristic City.”

See more of the top stories of 2017 in Thursday’s Daily Bee.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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