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News Roundup -- Really light rail plans touted/Gormleys are granted a stay/Culture Fair this week

Really light rail plans touted

With a simple shove, Councilman Bill Knobloch was able to move a two-ton prototype train suspended in the air by magnets. Now he hopes an event today will give Bainbridge a push, building momentum for trains to the island.

“It’s beyond amazing,” Knobloch said of his visit to the Magna Force lab in Port Angeles, to visit the train. “It’s a brand new technology that uses basic physics. It rides on air but doesn’t require electricity to do so.”

Knobloch and the train’s inventor, Jerry Lamb, will discuss a proposal to run the floating train from Winslow to Poulsbo at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon today at noon.

Unlike Seattle’s monorail, which the plan has often been compared to, the train would likely run on a two-track system. And unlike floating trains in Japan and Germany, Lamb’s technology requires no energy to keep it afloat, allowing the train to hover and glide for as long as the magnets exist.

“It’s also cheaper,” said Lamb. “It needs very little energy to push it along and doesn’t need power stations every nine miles.”

Knobloch has been an energetic supporter of the technology, working with Poulsbo city councilors to coordinate planning.

Kitsap Transit plans to study the feasibility of the Bainbridge-Poulsbo floating train run in an effort to ease traffic congestion on SR 305.

Lamb, who began studying magnets independently after graduating from Forks High School, has patented many of his inventions. He recently outfitted U.S. Navy destroyers and cruisers with magnetic couplings for pump refurbishments.

The luncheon will be held at 11:30 a.m. today at Wing Point Golf and Country Club. The cost is $12 for Chamber members and $14 for non-members.

– Tristan Baurick

Gormleys are granted a stay

Their story reads like a serialized cliff-hanger.

The latest twist in the five-year struggle of islanders Mike and Carol Gormley to remain in the United States sees immigration officials delaying a final ruling for another month.

The Gormleys’ request for political asylum here, based on job discrimination the white couple claimed to have experienced after apartheid was ended in their native South Africa in 1991, was denied in April 2004.

Last month, the Gormleys were told that they would be deported March 11, but then learned that their last-minute application for a “deferred action” to extend their stay for a year would be considered, with a decision to be handed down April 19.

Meanwhile the Gormleys have lost their livelihood working at Safeway, because immigration officials demanded both work permits and passports.

“The case is on the edge,” Carol Gormley said. “It’s so difficult, I really can’t even explain it. But we’re trying to stay positive.”

The couple based their request for a deferral on their contention that Mike Gormley’s serious health problems would not be adequately treated in South Africa.

Gormley has a pacemaker, and a regimen of more than a dozen daily medications. With little chance of obtaining health insurance, he would be bounced to the bottom rung of South Africa’s two-tier health system, they say.

“They tell people ‘you can’t have it, you can’t afford it,’” Carol Gormley said. “It amounts to a death sentence for Michael.”

Of the pending April ruling, the Gormleys say their attorney has told them that one outcome could be a split decision, with Michael Gormley allowed to stay and Carol forced to leave.

“Of course we can’t do that,” Carol said.

If the Gormleys’ last chance to stay is denied they will be deported two weeks after the ruling.

But for now, the pair continue to receive community support that includes donations to an account at Key Bank; and, most recently, sale of custom T-shirts at Safeway emblazoned with “Keep Mike and Carol.”

“I feel very heart-sore,” Carol Gormley said, “and I think Michael does, too. Because we love so many people here. We have made so many friends.”

– Dee Axelrod

Culture Fair this week

Woodward Middle School hosts its annual Culture Fair from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday evening in the school gym.

Three-hundred eighth graders will present research papers and displays about their heritages, which include Japan, Ecuador, Vietnam, Italy, Germany, the Philippines and England.

Performances spiced with international flavors will entertain attendees, including dancing by the newly formed Highland Dancers, Jean Cabunoc’s Hula Halau and the Suquamish Dancers.

The event is open to the public.

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