Year marked by lawsuits, kudos

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From building closures and lawsuits, to local schools and students recognized for top achievements, 2018 was a busy year for news.

This is the ninth in a series looking back at the top stories of the year, continuing with September. Stories are listed in no particular order.

• As the Homeschool Academy prepared to enter its third year, it grew to more than 100 students. The school, which offers supplemental education to home-school students, started in Sandpoint in 2016 with 16 students.

• Jessie Berner was selected as the new district ranger for the Sandpoint Ranger District, arriving on Sept. 4. Berner comes to the Idaho Panhandle National Forests from the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest where she has served as district ranger for the past eight years.

• The Highway 57 sidewalk project in Priest River was under construction, with the goal of increasing safety for students who regularly make the trek between the junior high and high school.

• A trademark dispute is brewing at Priest Lake after Priest Lake Brewing Co. filed suit against the operators Priest Lake Brewing for trademark infringement and tortious interference with business, according to 1st District Court records.

• Bonner County pushed back against a lawsuit filed by a Washington state couple whose home was destroyed in a landslide. Counsel for Lee and Myloa Stewart contend that water began accumulating on Talache Road near the couple’s home in late winter and early spring of 2017.

Permanent residents advised the county of the issue and the county took steps to alleviate the accumulation, according to the suit. The Stewarts’ counsel argues in the suit that the county’s intervention caused water to drain directly on a hillside behind their home, which was exacerbated by stormwater runoff.

• The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took aim at claims that it could have done more to mitigate flooding on Lake Pend Oreille earlier in the year. As floodwaters reached their sixth-highest level on record, a theory persisted that the corps could have blunted or sidestepped flood impacts by coordinating with dams in Montana.

• Several schools across in the Lake Pend Oreille and West Bonner school districts were recognized as top performers and goal makers as part of the state’s new accountability system, which seeks to identify schools with low achievement that are in need of comprehensive support and improvement, as well as recognize schools for top performance and reaching goals.

• As of 5 p.m. September 5, the building housing Arlo’s Ristorante and Blue Lizard Indian Art was closed off to the public due to safety concerns. Based on two recent property inspections, the decision to vacate the building was made by the city’s building official, public works director and engineer in coordination with the current building owners and buyer.

• Dyllan Thompson detailed how an apprenticeship while attending Sandpoint High School landed him a high-paying job first at Idaho Forest Group, and then at Kaiser Aluminum.

• Forest management and defensible space were a common theme as a group of area fire, forestry and county experts formed a panel to discuss the current state of wildfires in North Idaho and the surrounding region.

• Sandpoint released its new app, Engage Sandpoint, which allows the community to easily notify city officials of non-emergency issues such as potholes, graffiti, snow removal, dogs at large, as well as provide feedback on how the city is doing.

• Bonner County filed for a conditional use permit to establish a shooting range and training area at the Idaho Hill waste collection site for sheriff’s deputies. The training area will be closed to the public and is expected to be utilized on a monthly basis, according to the permit application.

• Closure areas began to relax as wildfire behavior in the area decreased and containment progress was made.

• City officials from Sandpoint, Dover and Ponderay outlined the state of the cities during the September Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Apps, streets, events and little winged mammals were just some of the topics touched on by city officials during the address.

• The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to reconsider its ruling against granting qualified immunity to Sandpoint Police officers who shot and killed a woman armed with a knife in 2014. The city’s counsel had argued in a federal lawsuit filed by members of Jeanetta Riley’s family that officers should be shielded from liability because their conduct didn’t violate any laws or the U.S. Constitution. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill disagreed and denied a motion for summary judgment on that specific issue in 2017. Winmill held that the officers’ use of force was excessive and violated Riley’s Fourth Amendment rights, court documents show.

• Richard Kainoua Borja was charged with two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon for allegedly threatening a former girlfriend with a pistol on more than one occasion.

• Sandpoint High School senior Adele Marchiando and Forrest Bird Charter High School senior Isaac Solly were named National Merit semi-finalists, putting them in the top one percent of high school seniors in the nation.

• An assessment of the facilities in the Lake Pend Oreille School District identified five schools with the most need in terms of remodeling or replacement. Those schools, in no particular order, include Washington and Northside Elementary schools, Sandpoint Middle School, Clark Fork Junior/Senior High School and Lake Pend Oreille High School.

• An Elmira man accused of accidentally shooting a minor in the face while target shooting pleaded guilty to an amended charge on Sept. 11. Brandon Guy Bowman was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and injuring another with a discharged firearm in connection with the May 2017 incident.

• A jury trial loomed in a civil suit over a coveted piece of Priest Lake property purchased by former NBA star John Stockton. The litigation dates back to 2016, Stockton and Plummer Forest Products President Todd Brinkmeyer purchased the Warren Beach Road property for $2.5 million. Stockton and Brinkmeyer then transferred ownership to PLMB, a limited-liability corporation in Spokane. However, at the time the sale went through, the Warren estate already had a purchase agreement in place with Tricore, a Coeur d’Alene LLC. Tricore filed suit against the Warren estates and its representatives, in addition to Stockton, Brinkmeyer and PLMB. Stockton, according to court documents, is accused of cherry-picking the property in order to keep it from being developed. Later in the month, Tricore moved to seek punitive damages against Stockton and Brinkmeyer.

• Two people were killed and three juveniles were injured in a head-on crash on East Spring Creek Road on Sept. 12. Idaho State Police said Vicki Sue Dettwiler was headed northbound in a 1994 Nissan Sentra when she crossed into the opposing lane of travel while attempting to negotiate a left-hand curve and collided with a southbound 1999 Dodge Ram 3500 pickup truck. Dettwiler, a 39-year-old from Clark Fork, was killed, as was passenger Jamy L. McCoy, a 57-year-old from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Three juveniles, two of whom were in safety restraints, were also in the vehicle and were injured.

• Schweitzer Mountain Resort peeled back the curtain on a series of capital improvements, which includes plans for two new chairlifts in the Outback Bowl set for construction in the summer of 2019.

• A man was arrested for felony eluding after crashing his cab-over recreational vehicle at the intersection of U.S. Highway 95 and Schweitzer Cutoff Road on Sept. 16. James Kerrigan was subsequently charged with battery on a law officer for attempting to bite a detention deputy’s leg and propelling bodily fluids at the deputy following his arrest, court records indicate.

• Hundreds turned out for a Washington Department of Ecology scoping hearing in Newport on the proposed PacWest silicon smelter, though only two people voiced support for the controversial facility. The purpose of the hearing was to help guide the department on what impacts should be considered when it draws up an environmental impact statement for the project, a draft version of which is expected in the summer of 2019. The smelter proposal faced another tough room the following night in Priest River, when Bonner and Pend Oreille county residents filled the Priest River Event Center to standing room only. Some called for a more rigorous analysis of the facility’s potential impacts to environmental resources, while others simply urged the Canadian company to pound sand.

• The owners of a theraputic boarding school for teens in northwestern Montana have agreed to pay nearly $1 million to families for abruptly shuttering the school in September 2017. The school has long had a connection to Bonner County, as it was originally started in Sandpoint before relocating to Heron. It drew employees from Bonner County and the school’s students would play varsity sports in Clark Fork.

• Bottle Bay Road opened after four months of closure at the intersection with U.S. Highway 95 while it was widened and a bike and pedestrian path was installed beneath the route.

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

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