Thumbs up: James Chamberlain
The Thurston County sheriff's office and local law enforcement officials have bid a fond farewell to Undersheriff James Chamberlain, who began his well-earned retirement with a fine going away party last week. Chamberlain, who started his law enforcement career in 1975, retired as undersheriff but was best known for his work as a jail deputy, detective, chief criminal deputy and SWAT team commander. We salute Chamberlain for a stellar law enforcement career, but today highlight his work as the leader of the county’s narcotics task force beginning in 1999, at the height of the methamphetamine epidemic. At that time, it seemed as if South Sound law enforcement officials were breaking up an illegal meth lab almost every week. Manufacturers of the illegal drug had begun using mobile meth labs that were harder to detect. Those mobile labs put public safety at risk because of the cooking techniques and the chemicals involved. Using new laws passed by the Legislature, public education and enforcement techniques, Chamberlain and his staff were able to turn the tide and substantially reduce the number of illegal meth labs. He deserved all the accolades that were sent his way at his retirement celebration.
Thumbs down: Cemetary Mess
John Baker, owner of a Centralia cemetery, is under investigation by the state Department of Licensing for allegedly spending cemetery trust funds set aside for burials. Sexton Jennifer Duncan, whom Baker put in charge of the cemetery by power of attorney before he went to prison a year ago, said the state is investigating 82 possible cases of fraud. Baker has since been released after his incarceration for possession of methamphetamine, second-degree assault and felony harassment. The state confirms only that it began its investigation in May. Patrice Boyer of Olympia says her father’s grave is nearly a year overdue for a headstone. Her father, Kenneth Brandt, arranged for one when he purchased two cemetery spaces along with “pre-needs” in 1994. But when Brandt was buried in March 2010, Boyer and her family learned there was no headstone in waiting and that Greenwood Memorial Cemetery did not have the money for one without dipping into operational costs or the sexton’s own pocketbook. State investigators owe it to Boyer and other family members to get to the bottom of this situation quickly and bring charges if warranted. Grieving families should not have to undergo additional stress when trying to receive the services they have paid for.
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Thumbs up: Port
The Port of Olympia commission has taken its first steps toward restoring Mission Creek into a salmon-bearing stream. Residents living near the creek on East Bay Drive welcome the move. Port commissioners likely will apply to the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for grant funds, determine the scope and cost of the project and hopefully begin work in the first quarter of 2012, according to Executive Director Ed Galligan. The cost of the project is likely to exceed $200,000. Mission Creek is a nearly two-mile stream that originates in northeast Olympia, then winds its way down and through a part of Priest Point Park and under East Bay Drive before it empties into Budd Inlet. The challenge with the creek today is that salmon can’t negotiate a section of it because of a pipe through a dike that is too steep for them to climb, said Fred Adair, a longtime East Bay Drive resident and a member of the East Bay Drive Neighborhood Association. Changes to the creek could make it more of a free-flowing waterway and result in a better estuary. Cleaning up Puget Sound and restoring salmon runs are noble priorities for this state and community and the restoration of Mission Creek certainly fits with that priority.