Word on the Street

The latest news in and around Tacoma, Pierce County and South Puget Sound

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Category: DuPont


State to review controversial rail plan after all

The state Department of Transportation announced today that it will review the effect of the Point Defiance Bypass project on its surrounding communities after all.

DOT will conduct a project-level, Environmental Assessment of the $91 million project, something for which Lakewood officials have repeatedly asked the state.

It isn’t clear how the environmental assessment, which officials say could take up to two years, will affect the $590 million the state received this year to improve passenger rail along the Interstate 5 corridor.

The state must build the bypass by 2017, or it could potentially lose the federal money.
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Get used to name changes at Fort Lewis, McChord

Reporter Kris Sherman, who is working on a larger upcoming story about changes at Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base, reports the following:

If your head whipped around on I-5 near DuPont today and you thought, “What was that?” when you passed a sign reading “Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) next 6 exits,” it wasn’t your traffic-befuddled brain.

It was a brand new highway sign, heralding change at the South Sound’s two big military bases. Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base are merging into one installation Monday.

The first sign of the change went up on northbound I-5 at

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Chloe Clark statue done, but school will wait a year for installation

She stands 6 feet high, school bell in hand and keeping a watchful eye on her students.

But the bronze statue of pioneering schoolteacher Chloe Clark doesn’t overlook an untouched prairie or a backdrop of Evergreen trees, scenes she might have seen when she first started teaching at Fort Nisqually (now DuPont) in 1840 at a mission school. She was the first school teacher to arrive in the South Sound, historians say.

(To the right is a picture of Chloe Clark. It isn’t the bronze statue, but it gives an idea of what it looks like. Key Peninsula sculptor John Jewell produced the real one)

Instead, Clark’s statue overlooks buildings and asphalt near the Bronze Works foundry in Tacoma. The group of history enthusiasts who raised $86,000 for the statue’s creation is ecstatic that it’s complete.

But they’ll have to wait until 2010 for the statue’s installation at Chloe Clark Elementary School in DuPont. The Steilacoom Historical School District must perform about $100,000 worth of landscape improvements, including clearing trees and readying the area for a pedestal for the statue.

“Are we disappointed? I think so,” said Retired Army Maj. Gen. John Hemphill, chairman of the Chloe Clark Memorial Committee. “But it is a lot of work.”

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The sweet sound of toot, toot in DuPont

Keith Beaton’s hands shifted from gauge to gauge today as he leaned inside the 12-ton monument to pre-World War II Dupont.

The 51-year-old Stryker mechanic played doctor, tapping the insides of the small, rusty locomotive used in the old DuPont Explosive Co. powder works.

"Fire in the hole!" he yelled. And with some turning and tweaking of a few switches, the locomotive rumbled, and a piece of the city’s history came to life.

After moving to DuPont in March, Beaton has worked almost daily to breath air into the antique train’s lungs.

The 1941 locomotive, which the Army delivered to the city two years ago, is now running. My former colleague, Rob Tucker, wrote about its homecoming.

Some parts still need tweaking, such as a whistle that’s more of a whisper among the engine noise. (Above is a video lifetime DuPont native Fred Foreman made of the narrow gauge train running on its own for the first time)

Still, it’s a far cry from when the machine came to the city two years ago. Beaton, along with Foreman, are working to restore it 100 percent.

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A new era at Pioneer Middle School

Outside the new Pioneer Middle School in DuPont, a weather-aged bell sits atop a wooden stand.

But the bell – which called classes to order when Pioneer first opened in 1892 – and the name are about the only holdovers from Pioneer’s Steilacoom digs. A 106,000 square-foot, $34.6 million building opened for classes to its 650 students Thursday, and students and faculty alike were buzzing before the first day of school was half finished.

It’s obvious even before one steps into the building that it’s a vast upgrade: Bose speakers mounted to the walls play classical music and kid-friendly rock. Inside, the school seems open and inviting.

"When I came in, I said, ‘Wow, this is beautiful,’" eighth-grader Ashley Connors said. "I think the building is going to be nicer than our high school."

Her classmate, Jazmyn Winegar, was impressed with the new second-floor library, which principal Kristi Webster calls "our tree of learning." Eighth-grader Matt Stillings, was eager to see the new SMART Boards in action.

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A cross-country pizza delivery

Nick Miller had only 24 hours to spend with his family. His wife, Melissa, wanted to make the short stay memorable.

A Washington pizza restaurant helped make it unforgettable.

Nick and Melissa met when he was stationed at Fort Lewis from 2003-05. His unit from the Missouri National Guard was filling in for the 170th Military Police Company, which was in Iraq. She worked as a gate guard at the post. Some of their first dates were at the Farrelli’s Pizza restaurant in DuPont. The two liked the wood-fired pies and fell in love with each other.

The couple and their two kids live in Linneus, Mo., now. Nick’s unit is preparing to deploy to Kosovo. It trained during February and March at Camp Crowder outside Neosho, Mo., and the Guardsmen had 24 hours of leave before deploying on March 23 – Easter Sunday.

Melissa’s plan to make the short leave memorable began weeks before that. She called Farrelli’s in DuPont and asked if they shipped pizzas.

"I was more than willing to pay for the pizza and the shipping and all that," she said. "I figured we’d be eating a $75 pizza. But I would do that for my husband."

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