All posts by Melissa Genson

My husband Steve and I raised four children in Thurston County. In addition to South Thurston Journal, we also own Thornfield Acres, a small organic farm, and Mason Dixon Line, a small restaurant in Rochester. I'm also a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Internal Auditor.

County lied about laws that would have saved disabled vet’s home from flooding

This is Part Three of my series, “Standing with SSG Gunderson.”  

Click here to read Part One, “Disabled vet faces homelessness because Thurston County protects illegal businesses.”
Click here to read Part Two, “Thurston diverts $300,000 to save yet another illegal business that floods and pollutes.”
Click here to go to the facebook page, “Standing with SSG Gunderson.”

It has been nearly six months since disabled combat vet SSG Timm Gunderson first contacted Thurston County about health risks to his family, and damage to his home and property.

SSG Timm Gunderson
SSG Timm Gunderson

His home had become surrounded by polluted flooding.  His family was faced with homelessness. They were losing their running water, their septic system, and their propane–their sole source of heat and cooking.

Other neighbors were flooded, as well.

Gunderson and I have both had multiple  communications with county officials since then about his family’s crisis.

The flooding was apparently caused by his neighbor Sara Perkins diverting water flow off her property, which kept her her two illegal luxury horse businesses dry.

SSG Gunderson states that Perkins told him that she had blocked up the water flow on her property to protect her horse businesses.

SSG Gunderson is on a fixed income, after becoming 100% disabled from a suicide bomber attack on New Years Eve 2003.

His fixed income wasn’t enough to pay the mortgage and rent another place at the same time.

Gunderson still has stagnant water on his property from last winter’s flooding, where his property is normally dry in the summer.

He is afraid for what will happen this coming fall, when the rains return.

After four months of receiving emails and evidence from both SSG Gunderson and me, the county finally shut down the two illegal businesses.

But that didn’t help Timm Gunderson, his family, and his neighbors. They still needed the blockage removed.

County officials “brainstorm” to help the Gunderson family with ridiculous suggestions

The County Commissioners “brainstormed” to come up with ideas for SSG Timm Gunderson and his family.

The result of all their brainstorming was to refer the family to homeless services.

Other county officials offered similarly helpful advice for Gunderson’s family.  They suggested putting a port-a-potty on their flooded property to replace their septic.

The county officials advised that the teenage daughter didn’t really need to shower before going to school.  They also thought that the family didn’t need clean water for washing clothes and dishes.

And since the propane company couldn’t get through the flood to refill their tank in the dead of winter, the county suggested that Gunderson get a small portable tank and run a propane hose through the flooded water to heat their house.

An interesting idea.  Also highly dangerous and probably illegal.

But with all this helpful advice over the last six months, the county officials repeatedly stated that they were powerless to do anything about the apparent blockages on Perkins’ property that were causing the flooding. Continue reading County lied about laws that would have saved disabled vet’s home from flooding


Thurston diverts $300,000 to save yet another illegal business that floods and pollutes

Part two in a series on SSG Timm Gunderson’s battle with Thurston County.  

Click here to read part one, “Disabled Vet Faces Homelessness because Thurston County Protects Illegal Businesses.”  

Click here to read part 3, “County Lied About Laws that Would Have Saved Disabled Vet’s Home from Flooding.”

Click here to go to the facebook page, “Standing with SSG Gunderson.”

A Summary of the Background

SSG Timm Gunderson’s family has been faced with homelessness from polluted flooding since winter.  A neighbor, Sara Perkins, had blocked drainage on her property, which has been prone to flooding.

The blockage kept Perkins’ two new luxury horse businesses dry, while her neighbors’ properties were severely flooded.

Neither of these luxury businesses operated legally.  County law even prohibited both of these businesses, Equine Medical Services and Waystation Farm, from operating on the same parcel.

From, April 25, 2016
From, April 12, 2016
From, April 12, 2016

Before becoming permitted, a business in rural Thurston County needs to have a detailed stormwater drainage plan approved by a Hearing Examiner, showing how the business won’t harm neighbors.

SSG Gunderson’s house was surrounded by polluted water last winter –

Gunderson front steps lead into flood
Gunderson front steps lead into flood
Gunderson barn
Gunderson barn

Meanwhile, Perkins’ Waystation Farm was high and dry –perkins fb 3-29-16 (2)

County has two sets of rules, two kinds of justice

For months, Thurston County Commissioners and management refused to step in and enforce their own laws to shut down these illegal businesses that have wreaked havoc throughout their rural Rainier neighborhood.

Instead, the Commissioners suggested that Gunderson’s family seek homeless services–meanwhile allowing the two illegal businesses to continue to operate, and continue to flood out the neighborhood.

Four months after the businesses were reported, the county finally shut them down.

However, the county still won’t hold the business owner accountable for the damage caused by the blockage on her property. They won’t even make her remove the blockage.

Cliff Moore
Cliff Moore

This spring, County Manager Cliff Moore sent sarcastic and disturbing emails to Gunderson, who had continued to plead with the county to enforce their own laws to save his home.

Cliff Moore has recently taken a large pay increase to become Yakima’s new City Manager.  His salary is reported to be between $165,000-$195,000.

SSG Gunderson has a 100% disability rating from the VA, after miraculously surviving a suicide bomber in Baghdad on New Years Eve 2003.   He is currently living on Social Security Disability.

Here is Timm Gunderson’s jeep after the attack –gunderson jeep

SSG Timm Gunderson
SSG Timm Gunderson

It has now been five months since Timm Gunderson first reported the damage and health risks caused by the two illegal businesses.

The county has still taken no action requiring the owner of the illegal businesses to fix her drainage.

New county manager Ramiro Chavez continues to insist that the county is powerless to enforce their own laws in this case, even though they enforce the same laws very harshly against others.

To read a detailed report of all these events, click here.

So why is this happening, in a county that is famous for strict and punitive enforcement of extreme regulations?

Why does the county fabricate phony rules to shut down some law abiding businesses, while turning a blind eye to lawbreaking, damage and pollution by other businesses?

In short, why are there two sets of rules?  Two kinds of justice?

To understand that, you have to understand the County Commissioner’s vision for south Thurston County. Continue reading Thurston diverts $300,000 to save yet another illegal business that floods and pollutes


Disabled vet faces homelessness because Thurston County protects illegal businesses

Part one in a series on SSG Timm Gunderson’s battle with Thurston County.

Click here to read Part Two, “Thurston diverts $300,000 to save yet another illegal business that floods and pollutes.”

Click here to read part 3, “County Lied About Laws that Would Have Saved Disabled Vet’s Home from Flooding.”

That day in Baghdad

On December 31, 2003 in Baghdad, Staff Sergeant Timm Gunderson’s life changed in an instant.

An Iraqi suicide bomber pulled his vehicle within ten feet of Gunderson’s jeep.  He detonated 1,000 lbs. of explosives.

Here is SSG Gunderson’s vehicle after the blast –gunderson jeep

This was what was left of the suicide bomber’s vehicle –suicide bombers vehicle

This was the pavement underneath the bomber’s vehicle, after the blast –iraqi hole in pavement

SSG Gunderson took shrapnel to the back of his head and neck.   He also suffered traumatic brain injury, and injuries to his right shoulder and arm.

He still suffers constant headaches and painful impingement in his neck and lower back.

Timm Gunderson was medically retired in 2012 after eleven years of service as a Staff Sergeant, with a 100% disability rating from the VA.  He is now living on Social Security Disability because of his injuries.

He shares this on his facebook page:

In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.

A peaceful new life in Rainier

In July 2012, Timm Gunderson and his family settled into a comfortable farmhouse with a barn and outbuildings on five acres near Rainier.   He was getting on with his life, in spite of the injuries that he will always endure.

timm's farmhousegunderson property

They added raised beds to their carefully tended property in 2014.

gundersons' raised beds

Illegal luxury businesses cause disaster for neighborhood

Then this past winter, things began to go terribly wrong.

Gunderson and his neighbors were faced with being flooded out of their homes, because another neighbor was blocking a large culvert to divert storm water drainage off her property.

The neighbor, Sara Perkins DVM,  had recently started two luxury horse businesses on her recently acquired property at 12440 Koeppen Road.  Her parcel was prone to flooding.

Both of these luxury horse businesses were operating illegally, because neither of her businesses, Equine Medical Services and Waystation Farm, had ever gone through any county permit process at that location.

TCC 20.54.070(43)b prohibits Perkins’ two businesses, a veterinary clinic and a stable with non-medical boarding, from operating on the same parcel.

The permit process would have required a detailed storm water and drainage plan for her property.  (TCC 20.60.030(3)c.viii-ix)

TCC 20.54.040(3)a says that a proposed land use, like each of Perkins’ businesses, can’t cause substantial or undue adverse effects to neighboring community, adjacent properties, or public health, safety, and welfare.

The Gunderson family home became surrounded by stagnant, polluted water that wouldn’t recede.  Their septic system went under water and stopped working.   They were afraid to drink their well water.

And in the dead of winter, the propane truck couldn’t get to their tank because it was surrounded by water.  They had no other source of heat.

gunderson house flooded
Gunderson’s front steps lead right into flood
Gunderson front steps leading into front yard
Gunderson front steps leading into front yard
Side of house and septic
Side of house and septic
gunderson out buildings
Gunderson outbuildings
Gunderson barn
Gunderson barn
Gunderson front yard
Gunderson front yard
gunderson yarsd
Gunderson yard

Below are their raised beds after storm water flow was blocked on Sara Perkins’ property –

Gunderson family's raised beds are under this backed-up water
Gunderson family’s raised beds (shown above) under this backed-up water


While the Gunderson home was surrounded with water that was backed up from Perkins’ property, Sara Perkins posted facebook photos from her property, safely protected by the blockage –

perkins fb 3-29-16 (2)

Faced with homelessness, Gunderson turned to the county to enforce their own laws

SSG Timm Gunderson
SSG Timm Gunderson

Gunderson and his family were faced with homelessness, because their home was rapidly becoming uninhabitable.  Their homeowners insurance didn’t cover this kind of flooding, and they couldn’t afford to pay both their mortgage and rent for another place.

Timm Gunderson says that he talked to Sara Perkins on the phone about the flooding.  He says that she admitted that the flooding was caused by the blockage on her property, but she said that she needed to protect her horse businesses and keep them dry.

Cliff Moore
Cliff Moore

Gunderson first reported the flooding and the illegal horse businesses to the county in February.   For months, he continued reporting it to county staff, including top management and County Manager Cliff Moore.

Commissioner Sandra Romero visited Timm Gunderson’s property and saw the devastation first hand.

That’s when things became surreal for Timm Gunderson and his family.  Even with all their laws, everyone at the county, including County Manager Cliff Moore, kept insisting there was nothing they could do.

Sandra Romero
Commissioner Sandra Romero

Ironically, both Romero and Moore had been strong proponents of the controversial new Title 26, which makes every code violation a misdemeanor, punishable by 90 days in jail.

SSG Gunderson contacted me on March 10.   I immediately began communicating with County Manager Cliff Moore about the situation, and sending him evidence of the unpermitted operations.

Moore continued his same mantra with me, that there was nothing they could do about two illegal businesses that were causing neighbors to face homelessness.

The county has never denied that the flooding was caused by the blockage on Sara Perkins’ property.  They did not suggest that the blockage was accidental.

The Gunderson property is still flooded with stagnant water, even though it’s summer now.  Timm is afraid for what will happen next winter.

The county has taken no action.  Both of Sara Perkins’ businesses continue to advertise their operations.

Waystation Farm shares online photos of the recent improvements to the arena and office of the horse boarding business.  It also advertises an opening in the rehab program.

According to facebook posts, these new improvements have occurred since Timm Gunderson reported the flooding to the county.

Click on 2 below to go to next page.


Mayfield Dam and Mayfield Lake

Did you know that some of our most popular recreation spots were created by dams built by Tacoma Power?

On Highway 12 East, on the way to White Pass, stop and visit Mayfield Lake–one of Tacoma Power’s loveliest contributions to our area.  Mayfield Lake was created by Mayfield Dam.mayfield lake bridge

Mayfield Dam is a sight worth seeing, on its own.

Mayfield Lake is on Beach Road, off of Highway 12.  Go about 17 miles east on Hwy 12 after getting off of I-5 Exit 68.

Mayfield Dam

Mayfield Dam was completed in 1963.  Above the bedrock, its concrete arch towers 250 feet high, and stretches 850 feet long. This gravity dam that formed Mayfield Lake with water from two rivers.mayfield dam

In addition to the Cowlitz River, water from the Tilton River also contributes to Mayfield Lake.   The dam and its related structures and turbines can provide 162 megawatts of power.

Mayfield Dam provides electicity to nearly 58,000 homes each year!

Mayfield Lake

The 2,250-acre Mayfield Lake offers year-round recreation.mayfield lake 1

Public boat ramps and campgrounds are located at Mayfield Lake Park and Ike Kinswa State Park, which is mostly located on Tacoma Power property.

Several privately run recreational areas operate with permits from Tacoma Power.

Tacoma Power owns the shoreline around Mayfield Lake, some of which is designated for wildlife habitat.mayfield lake 2

Under certain situations, permits are issued to neighboring property owners who wish to have a boat dock on the lake and meet the conditions of the permit.

Click here to get more information about camping and facilities at Mayfield Lake.

Click here to get information about Ike Kinswa State Park, near Silver Creek.


Grand Funk Railroad rocked out the early 1970s–and again today

Grand Funk Railroad was a constant and carefree fixture on AM radio during the early 1970s.  I remember high school parties where their albums boomed in the background.  We couldn’t keep from dancing.

Their name was a play on the “Grand Trunk Western Railroad” that rumbled through their hometown of Owosso, Michigan.

Grand Funk had great songs with a funky beat, but it was Mark Farner’s voice that defined them.

In 1971, Grand Funk sold out Shea Stadium in 72 hours–faster than the Beatles had.

Grand Funk hit some bumps in the mid-1970s, and broke up.   Mark Farner began his own solo career.

In 1996, three of the original band members reformed with new musicians and a new lead singer, Max Carl of .38 Special, and a new guitarist, Bruce Kulich of Kiss.

Here’s how the lineup looks today –gf today

They are currently touring!

The new Grand Funk will be coming to the Central Washington State Fair in Yakima on September 30 of this year.

Sounds like a fun way to end the summer!

Click here for more information.

Here is Grand Funk in 2013, led by Max Carl.  He kicked off “We’re an American Band” by calling out, “God bless America!”