SANDPOINT — From two-way street revisions and road closures, to vehicle accidents and train derailments, Bonner County saw no shortage of news as we continue to look back on 2017.
This is the fourth in a series looking back at the top stories of the year, continuing with May and June. Stories are listed in no particular order.
• More than 20 hopper cars hauling corn derailed in the early morning of May 1 at Cocolalla Flats.
There were no injuries or hazardous material releases after the cars jumped the tracks on the four-lane stretch of U.S. Highway 95 at approximately 6 a.m., said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas.
The derailment thinned the four-lane section of highway to two lanes while front-end loaders scooped up buckets of corn and railroad track ballast rock that spilled onto the highway. The procession of 110 train cars were being hauled by three locomotives traveling from St. Cloud, Minn., to Kalama, Wash., according to BNSF. The derailment occurred on a stretch of track that sees 60 trains per day, including the Amtrak route that links Chicago to Seattle with stopovers in Sandpoint.
• A Bonner County woman was ordered to serve up to 10 years in prison on May 2 for bludgeoning her boyfriend to death after allegedly suffering years of physical and psychological abuse.
Linda Carol Provo-Buxton will have to serve at least four years of the sentence before she can be released on parole, according to the terms of the sentence imposed by 1st District Judge Barbara Buchanan.
Provo-Buxton, 54, is accused of inflicting fatal blunt-force trauma on Jeffrey Lester Newton at their shared residence on West Spring Creek Road on Oct. 16, 2015. She was originally charged with second-degree murder, although the charge was amended to voluntary manslaughter amid plea negotiations in the case.
• A Washington state man who collided with an inner tuber on the Pend Oreille River while riding a personal watercraft pleaded guilty to a reduced charge on May 5.
William Riley Devine was initially charged with aggravated boating under the influence after the July 2016 crash near Strong Island which seriously injured a 27-year-old Colfax, Wash., woman. The felony charge against Devine was stepped down to boating under the influence, a misdemeanor in 1st District Court.
Devine’s blood alcohol concentration was measured at between 0.13 and 0.17, well above the legal limit of 0.08 to operate a vessel.
The alleged victim said she had to use a walker for several weeks and endured surgeries so metal plates could be installed in her face. Permanent damage to her ear is affecting her balance and she may need dental implants as well, she said. Her jaw was wired shut at one point and her athleticism has flagged.
Judge Barbara Buchanan imposed a 180-day sentence with 65 days suspended and credit for three days Devine has already served, leaving 12 days to serve.
• The North Idaho Friends of Head Start group and two individuals were honored in May for their contributions to Head Start families and local communities at the National Head Start Association’s annual conference held in Chicago.
The North Idaho Friends of Head Start organization was honored with the Edward Zigler Innovation Award. Joan Goldsmith and Ken Cloke, of Hope, were recognized for their contributions to Head Start by winning the Sargent Shriver Excellence in Community Service Award.
• A Clark Fork woman was charged with grand theft after allegedly ransacking the rural home of actor Viggo Mortensen.
Sharyl Ann Hoskins, 50, made an initial appearance in Bonner County Magistrate Court on May 15 via video feed from the Bonner County Jail, court records show. Judge Debra Heise set Hoskins’ bail and appointed a public defender to represent her.
The caretaker of Mortensen’s rural home reported on Friday that he left the property and was gone all day. Upon the man’s return, he discovered smashed up dinnerware, overturned furniture and missing property. Two .22-caliber rifles, a 12-gauge shotgun, 25 pocket knives, 20 antler sheds, four whitetail deer skulls and other property were reportedly taken, according to a probable cause affidavit.
• Bonner County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Gagnon, who was shot in line of duty in January, was given a standing ovation during the 2017 Peace Officers Memorial ceremony on May 15.
Gagnon and Deputy Justin Penn were seriously wounded in a hail of gunfire while attempted to serve an arrest warrant in Blanchard on Jan. 16. Gagnon, 53, said law enforcement runs in his family, although he didn’t embrace the profession until later in his life.
“But I have no regrets, not for one second, for having followed my family into this career,” said Gagnon, who returned to active duty on May 7.
• As of May 25, Fifth Avenue between Cedar and Pine streets was striped and ready for two-way traffic.
Nearly a month after the scheduled completion of the two-way street revision in the downtown area, the weather finally dried enough to start the striping.
The original schedule released by the Idaho Transportation Department in March started with Fifth Avenue in the first week of April and completing all street revisions by the end of April. Due to weather and other delays, it was mid-June before all the streets were striped for two-way traffic.
Crews were out flagging traffic and law enforcement was on patrol along Pine Street on May 31 as the two-way street conversion caused confusion and traffic congestion.
One block of Pine Street, between Fourth and Fifth avenues, remained one-way for eastbound traffic only. Not only was it confusing for drivers, but log trucks heading west could not make the required turn onto Fourth Avenue. The crews closed the north lane between Fourth and Fifth to all traffic at that time and flagged the log trucks through going west.
• One person was killed and two more were injured May 15 after the car they were in overturned on Spirit Lake Cutoff Road, according to Idaho State Police.
State police said the trio was northbound in a Subaru Legacy when its driver lost control and entered a southbound ditch. The mid-size car struck several mailboxes, overturned and came to rest on its top. A juvenile male was ejected during the rollover and died at the scene, according to ISP. The car’s two other occupants were Jose Franco Sosa Jr., 55 of Coeur d’Alene, and another unidentified juvenile. Both were taken to Kootenai Health, with the former being evacuated by air ambulance and the latter by ground ambulance.
• A Sagle motorcyclist tallied back-to-back excessive driving under the influence charges after crashing in separate accidents.
Luke Dale Lowell was charged with excessive DUI after crashing his motorcycle at Fourth and Oak in Sandpoint on Friday, May 19. Lowell, 37, walked from the scene, but was followed by a passerby, who alerted police. Lowell was stopped a few blocks away, but denied being on his bike. Lowell’s blood alcohol concentration was measured at 0.36 and 0.37, which is approximately four times higher than the legal limit to drive of 0.08. Lowell posted bond to secure his release.
Lowell was arrested again on May 20 after crashing his motorcycle on West Garfield Bay Road. A partially consumed carton of Chardonnay was found in his pants pocket, according to a Bonner County sheriff deputy’s report.
• A Priest River couple filed a suit on May 22 against Bonner County after the motorcycle they were on was clipped by a sheriff’s patrol vehicle in 2015.
Counsel for Rodney and Catherine Howard said the collision launched them onto the highway and left them with severe injuries. The suit seeks damages in excess of $10,000 for negligence. Deputy Phyllis Jay is also named as a defendant in the suit.
Idaho State Police said the Howards were headed northbound on U.S. Highway 95 on their three-wheeled Honda Goldwing when Jay pulled onto the highway from Sagle Road. The Chevrolet Tahoe she was driving hit the rear tire of the touring motorcycle, which flung the couple onto the highway.
Jay was cited for inattentive driving in connection with the collision. She pleaded guilty to an amended charge of failure to yield, an infraction.
• About 60 local groups presented Sandpoint High School students with more than $156,000 in scholarships on May 23.
During this year's Sandpoint High School Scholarship Night, approximately 50 students were awarded scholarships, with many receiving multiple awards. Most of the recipients were seniors, but a few sophomores made the cut as well. Community members representing the different groups — from the Eagle Ladies Auxiliary to Veterans of Foreign Wars, numerous memorial scholarships and more — presented the awards.
• After extensive planning and design for Cedar Street over the past few months, the first phase of the downtown revitalization project was officially put on hold.
Improvements on Cedar, between Fifth and Second avenues, were scheduled to begin around the end of May. But after receiving only one bid for the construction, City Council members voted unanimously on May 17 to reject it. The bid was approximately 25 percent over the cost estimated by Century West Engineering staff, the company contracted by the city to design the project. Century West recommended the council reject the bid due to available funding for the project.
City administrator Jennifer Stapleton said the project will go out to bid again early next year, likely in February. She said Century West will have approximately the same work schedule to avoid construction during any major events or holidays. To keep on schedule for completion of all three phases of the downtown revitalization in the next three years, engineers may combine a portion of phase two with phase one next year, and then finish the following year with the rest of phases two and three.
• Gary Suppiger, Lonnie Williams and Cary Kelly would be the new trustees for the Lake Pend Oreille School District, according to unofficial results of the May elections.
Suppiger came out ahead of Richard Miller in Zone 2 at 368-292 votes. In Zone 3, Williams came out ahead of Victoria Zeischegg 563-168. Kelly, who had recently stepped down as county commissioner, took the lead over his opponent, Anita Perry, 765-114. The three positions were vacated by board chairman Steve Youngdahl, Matt Mire and Joan Fish when the elected trustees were sworn in during the district's annual meeting in July.
• Sandpoint High School Sophomore Ignacio Padilla was honored by United States Marine Corps and Korean War veteran Marvin Satuloff of Coeur d’Alene for a letter he wrote in SHS instructor John Nitcy's Honor Flight Club.
Sotuloff was the original recipient of the letter during the fall 2016 Honor Flight. Yet the plane was dead silent as the letter was passed around by veterans on the flight, and it was read over the plane’s loudspeaker.
"It was incredible," Satuloff said. "I hadn't thought about Korea in probably 60 years before I went on the Honor Flight, and then Ignacio wrote that and we had it read on the airplane microphone, and everybody wanted a copy of it. Seeing all of the memorials on the Honor Flight and then getting that from him — it was really something."
• The circle of elementary school gardens was completed in May.
Southside Elementary second-graders helped Elks Lodge members fill all the new, raised garden beds at the school with soil on May 4. Now, every elementary school in the Lake Pend Oreille School District now has a garden, where kids can grow and eat their own vegetables.
Also in May, eighteen volunteers helped install new, raised garden beds at the Bonner Community Food Bank.
• Two parents and three children escaped a fire on May 31 that destroyed their Cedar Street home.
There were no injuries, though the fire started while they were sleeping, Northside Fire Chief Brad Mitton said the following day. The fire was discovered at around 5:30 a.m. by a relative of the family who happened to be passing through the neighborhood in his vehicle.
Mitton said the blaze appeared to have started in the garage, though a cause was not released at the time as it was still under investigation.
• A Bonner County sheriff’s deputy discovered more than 60 grams of methamphetamine and more than 30 grams of black tar heroin during a traffic stop in Oldtown on June 6.
Dana Allen Mark Northern, 26, of Rathdrum, and Miguel Antonio Roque, 24, of Spirit Lake, were charged with two counts of drug trafficking. They made initial appearances in Bonner County Magistrate Court on June 7 via video feed from the Bonner County Jail.
Deputy Chad Vogt stopped the vehicle containing the two men because it was traveling 10 mph over the posted 35 mph speed limit on U.S. Highway 2 near the Washington state line. The search uncovered 63.81 grams of meth and 35.91 grams of heroin, according to the affidavit. In addition to the trafficking charges, Northern was further charged with unlawful possession of a firearm due to the discovery of a .45-caliber Hi-Point Firearms pistol.
• A Sandpoint attorney’s license to practice law was suspended for a year after he pleaded guilty to evidence tampering in a 2014 drug case in Alaska, according to the Idaho State Bar.
The Idaho Supreme Court found that Jeremy Featherston violated the bar’s rules of professional conduct by committing a criminal act that reflects adversely on a lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness and fitness as a lawyer.
The high court further ruled that Featherston engaged in conduct that was prejudicial to the administration of justice, according to the supreme court’s May 30 disciplinary order. The misconduct dates back to 2014, when Featherston’s former brother-in-law was arrested in Alaska on drug charges.
• Officials announced intermittent closure of the Sand Creek Bridge on Schweitzer Cutoff Road May 16 as work to replace the deteriorating structure officially got underway. The bridge replacement was coordinated with a city of Sandpoint project to construct a roundabout at Boyer and Schweitzer Cutoff.
Schweitzer Cutoff Road and its intersection with Boyer Avenue were officially closed to the public 24-7 on June 19 as work continued on the Sand Creek Bridge replacement project and the installation of a traffic roundabout.
• The Sandpoint Lions Club stuck by its decision in June not to allow Sandpoint Indivisible to march in its annual Independence Day parade through downtown.
The grassroots community group, which counts about 60 members, applied to be part of the Fourth of July procession, but the club denied their application. An email informing Sandpoint Indivisible of the club’s decision pointed out that the group endeavors to push back against the agenda of President Donald Trump’s agenda.
“Our parade is organized to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day. Your objectives do not go with the theme of our parade,” the club’s email said.
Sandpoint Indivisible disagrees, pointing out the United States was founded on freedom of dissent in politics and religion.
Soon after, the group reached out to dispel a rumor that it initiated a boycott of local businesses after being excluded from the Sandpoint Lions Club’s annual Independence Day parade. The group released a statement that the boycott is a false claim making the rounds on social media.
Sandpoint Indivisible ultimately made its Facebook page private due to a social media backlash from conservative commentators, which Castor said is unfortunate.
• A Sagle woman with six prior drunken driving arrests was imprisoned on June 19 after pleading guilty in a seventh case.
McIntire’s seventh driving-under-the-influence entanglement occurred Feb. 3 in Sandpoint. She denied consuming alcohol before getting behind the wheel, but was unsteady on her feet and failed field sobriety tests, a Sandpoint Police arrest report said. Her breath-alcohol content was measure at 0.37, nearly five times the legal limit to drive of 0.08, the report said.
• A family of Sandpoint sailors rescued a stranded windsurfer during a windstorm that raked the area on June 21.
Greg and Jennifer Anderson were conducting a shakedown cruise of a recently acquired sailboat when they noticed a windsurfer struggling in the winds after he shoved off from City Beach.
Greg Anderson waved to the windsurfer a couple of times in 20-minute intervals to see if he needed help, but there was no response. Conditions ultimately forced the family to stow their sails and shift to an outboard motor as they returned to their marina. But the windsurfer continued to struggle.
The family made its way to the windsurfer and offered to help. The 20-something Bonner County man was grateful for the assistance and tried to cut a stoic image, but Greg Anderson said the distress was nevertheless evident.
• A Cocolalla man was killed June 23 after crashing his car off U.S. Highway 95 in Athol, according to Idaho State Police.
State police said James W. Brown was northbound in a 1996 Ford Taurus station wagon when he went off the road onto the left shoulder and struck the end of a guardrail. Brown, 84, died at the scene, an ISP news release said. Patricia E. Brown, 84, was not injured in the crash.
• Intermax Networks announced in June they were the first company to enter into all of the required agreements with Sandpoint to provide service on the city’s economic development fiber network.
The city installed two conduits, each two inches in diameter, and each holds 144 strands of fiber. One conduit line is dedicated to administration use by the city to connect its buildings and keep services like 911 secure. The second line is an open access network that can be leased out to private companies, like Intermax, to provide service to businesses and residences.
• June saw hundreds of local high school students head into the next phase of their lives.
The 2017 Sandpoint High School graduating class had more than 40 students graduating with honors or high honors, and many more who have already accomplished so much as they prepare to move on to the next stage of their lives. SHS is coming up on its 110th year as an accredited high school, and with right around 200 graduates, the class of 2017 was the smallest graduating class since 1995.
It was another record year for Lake Pend Oreille High School with 39 graduates; a few were unable to attend the ceremony, so 34 were on stage Thursday in the Sandpoint Events Center. The staff told stories and presented the students with gifts, as is custom for LPOHS, before handing them their diplomas and sending them off to the next stage of their lives.
Clark Fork High School graduates accepted their diplomas as well, and all 13 had postsecondary education plans. During a recent scholarship night, the students pulled in more than $115,000 in scholarships, which is quite an accomplishment, said Principal Phil Kemink at the time.
Of the 33 Forrest Bird Charter School students who received their diploma, more than a third of them attended the school since sixth grade. Forrest Bird's class of 2017 was not only artistic, a few talented musicians were in the group as well. This was proven as Charlie Harrison played a rendition of the "The Star Spangled Banner" on the electric guitar, and Lakiah Turnbull stole the show with an original song titled, "Always a Rainbow," which she said was inspired by a good friend of hers.
• For their project H.O.P.E. — Have Only Positive Expectations — nine Washington Elementary sixth-graders learned in June that they were chosen as the top Design for Change team in the country.
In Ann Dickinson’s Design for Change elective, the kids were tasked with finding and attempting to solve a problem within the community. They ultimately decided to focus on teen suicide after learning there had been six in the community over a two-year period.
In November, six of the group represented the United States at the 2017 “Be the Change” conference in Spain. On the international stage, the kids learned suicide is a worldwide problem. They plan to continue their work, which has been reaffirmed multiple times as suicide survivors, locally and across the world, have reached out to them to let them know just how important their mission is.
• During the first meeting of summer break for the Lake Pend Oreille School District in June, trustees adopted a $32.8 million budget Tuesday for the 2018 fiscal year, which began July 1.
Of 164 districts in Idaho, LPOSD is the 22nd largest with approximately 500 full-time equivalent employees and enrollment projected at 3,670 students for the 2017-2018 school year. The budget process started eight months prior, when district officials began discussing the two-year, $17 million supplemental levy, which was approved by voters in March.
• A group of community members hope to someday bring local pups together in one location where they can run and play in their very own park.
In June, City Council members gave their support of the idea and location with an official vote. The proposed location for the Sandpoint Dog Park was Lakeview Park, adjacent to Memorial Field. At that time, the group was applying for a $25,000 PetSafe grant, as well as pursuing local grant options.
• As the Lions Club International celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2017, Mike Reeb had been with the Sandpoint Lions Club nearly half that — 46 years to be exact — which is why his fellow Lions chose him as grand marshal for this year's Fourth of July parade. Reeb said he moved to Sandpoint in 1970 when it was “just a sleepy old lumber and railroad town.”
Mary Malone can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.