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Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Local Digest

Troops helped build Afghan highway

Soldiers from Fort Lewis helped build an 80-mile highway in Afghanistan that will be formally opened Sept. 27.

The $20 million road replaces a dirt trail connecting Kandahar and Tarin Kowt and will improve security and social and economic opportunities in the region, officials said.

Task Force Pacemaker, in charge of the project, includes 400 soldiers from the 864th Engineer Combat Battalion from Fort Lewis.

Two soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb during construction. The dead were 1st Lt. Laura Walker, 24, of Texas, a 2003 graduate of West Point and the task force's public-information officer, and Sgt. Robert G. Davis, 23, of Jackson, Mo., who was driving the vehicle that struck the bomb.

Seattle

Patrol worker retires after 48 years on job

The State Patrol's longest-serving employee retired this month after a 48-year career.

Will "Bill" Dretke of Burlington, whose last assignment as a communications supervisor was at the Marysville office, said the biggest change since he started as a dispatcher in 1957 was computer communications.

It used to take 30 or 40 minutes by radio and teletype to run a wanted-person check that now takes seconds.

Born in Plummer, Idaho, Dretke moved with his family to Rosalia, about 25 miles south of Spokane, where his father served as chief of police.

After graduating from high school, Dretke worked in a Texaco service station where he met a trooper who suggested he pursue a career in the State Patrol.

Seattle

Center halts talks over monorail

Seattle Center has halted its negotiations with monorail contractors, in the wake of Friday's decision by Mayor Greg Nickels to demand a re-vote on the project.

The Center's redevelopment director, Shelly Yapp, canceled a meeting today on station and track design. "Shelly didn't think it was prudent to meet, until we know what's going to happen," a spokesman said. Today's cancellation is one sign of the unstable political climate dogging Fluor Enterprises, lead construction partner.

As of yesterday, company Vice President Pat Flaherty said his $1.6 billion contract offer still stands, until either the November re-vote or mid-December, when the offer expires.

"After that, it's harder to say, as we would need to assess the situation in the city," he said, also citing competition for labor, equipment and materials created by Hurricane Katrina.

South King County

Man fatally shot by police identified

The King County Medical Examiner's Office has identified a man Des Moines police fatally shot last week.

Kenneth Wicker, 50, of Des Moines, died Saturday from a gunshot wound to the neck.

According to Des Moines police, Wicker, after refusing to put down his gun, pointed it at officers in the back yard of a house in the 1600 block of South 257th Street. He was shot by a 25-year veteran and a 15-year veteran of the force.

Toppenish, Yakima County

Markers to be sold for flag-pole project

Some folks in this Yakima Valley town want to erect a 160-foot-tall flag pole that would fly a 30- by 60-foot American flag.

The flag in Pioneer Park would be visible throughout the valley. Supporters hope to complete the $50,000 project for Toppenish's 100th birthday in 2007, Mayor Blaine Thorington said.

To help raise money, granite markers will be sold for placement around the base of the flagpole. The markers will be engraved as family memorials or to promote businesses.

Toppenish is on the Yakama Indian Reservation.

Times staff and news services

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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