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Spokane Valley blog

Suspected arson fires continue to flare

Fire investigators believe that the high number of brush fires spotted lately are the work of an arsonist. The fires are within Fire District 8 and there has been more than two dozen of them. Scott Maben wrote today's story on the fires - please keep an eye out for anything suspicious and call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233 with any reports. You can also contact Fire District 8 directly. 

The week to come

Here's your Monday afternoon blog update and a quick look ahead at the week to come. Remember, there's no Spokane Valley City Council meeting tomorrow, Sept. 30.  the council will resume its regular meeting schedule with a study session on Oct. 7. At that meeting, city staff will present two ordinances aimed at regulating semi truck parking on residential streets. Look for a preview story about that issue in The Valley Voice on Oct. 2.  

On Sept. 30, I will have lunch with the Rotary Club of Spokane Valley at noon. The group's fashion show is coming up on Oct. 10, so look for a story about that next week. I'm looking forward to meeting the good folks at Rotary and would be happy to come meet with your Spokane Valley based community group as well. Just shoot me an email at piah@spokesman.com 

On Wednesday, Oct. 1, I will be at Forza Coffee Co. - 325 S. Sullivan Rd. - at around 9 a.m. for another round of Valley morning coffee. Please stop by and say hello and share a Spokane Valley story with me. 

Finally Friday

It's Friday at the end of my first official week on the Spokane Valley beat - what did I do? Well, I put 140 miles on my little car. I'm a spoiled woman, used to a 10 minute commute and the ability to walk to many of my assignments downtown, so that's a lot of miles for me. 
I met the entire Valley City Council at the meeting I covered on Tuesday. I'm happy to say that everyone was really friendly and helpful.

Sullivan Bridge project celebrated

The Spokane Valley City Council and dignitaries from around the area gathered on the shore of the Spokane River to kick off the Sullivan West Bridge Replacement Project, today at 3:30 p.m. The west bridge is the southbound part of the 60-year-old structure which is currently held together with temporary reinforcement. Before the ribbon cutting, Spokane Valley Mayor Dean Grafos told the gathering that bridge safety never was an issue but that replacement was badly needed. “This is one of the most vital pieces of Valley infrastructure,” Grafos said, adding that it’s a major north-south arterial. “More than 4,500 jobs depend on smooth flow of traffic on this bridge.”

 

Friday morning coffee

The Spokane Valley Blog is touring coffee houses in the Valley and surrounding municipalities starting at Galaxy Grind, 12402 E. Saltese Rd., at 9 a.m. on Sept. 26. That's tomorrow. Feel free to stop by and say hello. The morning coffee dates will continue for the next couple of months as I get to know Spokane Valley in more detail. To keep updated, follow me on Twitter or like me on Facebook - and of course, read the blog. It's good for you. 

Don’t park it here

It's not easy driving a big rig: In downtown Spokane they get jammed under railway overpasses and soon they may be restricted from parking on residential streets in Spokane Valley. The City Council has scheduled a study session on Oct. 7 to possibly adopt an ordinance restricting parking - read the story here.

The Valley Precinct wants your drugs

The Spokane Valley Police Precinct is giving everyone a chance to get rid of their old drugs on Sept. 27. Drop off expired, unused and otherwise not needed medication between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Precinct, 12710 E. Sprague Ave.

Spokane Valley City Council meeting tonight

The Spokane Valley City Council his holding its regular meeting tonight at 6 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague Ave. On the agenda are items dealing with the comprehensive plan update, the 2015 property tax ordinance and an informational update on the Fife marijuana ban. In July, the City Council adopted some restrictions to where marijuana businesses may be operated. For more details see tonight's agenda - note that this is an informational agenda item only.

Sullivan Bridge project kickoff

The replacement of the Sullivan Bridge begins on Sept. 25 and the public is invited to stop by for a project orientation at 3:30 p.m. Spokane Valley Mayor Dean Grafos will be there together with other city dignitaries and project staff. The $15 million project is expected to be finished in 2016. Read more about it here. 

To sign up for traffic alerts and project updates from Spokane Valley visit the city's website and click on “follow us.” 

Valley Fest took flight

This weekend marked another wonderful Valley Fest celebration - the 25th to be exact. Check out photographer Dan Pelle's slide show from the festive weekend here. And share your favorite Valley Fest memories in the comments below. 

Zombie breakfast not a dead affair

I attended the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce “Zombie Breakfast” this morning at Mirabeau Park Hotel and got a chance to say hello to the new president and CEO of the chamber, Katherine Morgan. John Guarisco said that Morgan was selected from a group of 20 highly qualified applicants. 

“It was very difficult,” Guarisco said, “but she was the one person who was just a bundle of passion for Spokane Valley.”

 

Hello Spokane Valley

- I'm your new designated reporter and I am looking to have some fun with this blog, too. I just spent a good hour visiting with Carolbelle Branch at City Hall, and she helped me come up with a list of people and places to visit as I get a sense of my new beat. 

I will be taking the blog on the road in Spokane Valley on a regular basis - hopefully once a week - and I encourage you to come out and meet with me. The easiest way to keep track of me is to friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter; I will be posting invites there as I go. Story ideas are always welcome at piah@spokesman.com 

Valley’s first legal pot store set to open

The Valley’s first state-licensed recreational marijuana shop is hosting a grand opening celebration Friday.

Sativa Sisters is located in the former Planned Parenthood building at 10525 E. Trent Ave., just inside Millwood city limits. It plans on carrying marijuana from at least three regional producers, including a line of organic pot grown in nearby Lincoln County.

“It’s exciting,” said general manager Eric Skaar. “We haven’t even announced we’re opening and we’ve already got people stopping in.”

The store will keep daily operating hours from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and also offers smoking paraphernalia.

Friday’s celebration will include live music and a taco truck in the afternoon.

The store is the fourth to open in the Spokane area since July, when state regulators began issuing licenses to retail marijuana operations. The first three are in North Spokane. State regulators will allow up to 18 licensed retail shops throughout Spokane County, with eight allotted for the city of Spokane and three for the city of Spokane Valley.

Most of the first stores to open statewide have struggled with supply shortages that limited their hours of operation, but Skaar said he's confident Sativa Sisters will be able to maintain regular daily operating hours. He said that one of the reasons they're just now opening is because they wanted to have supply issues resolved ahead of time.

The city of Millwood issued the store a business license after concluding the location complied with zoning codes and other restrictions, officials said. The store also obtained city permits for renovations and other improvements to the property before opening.

Grocery Outlet expanding into Valley

Grocery Outlet plans to open its first Valley location next month.

The Berkeley, California-based company bills itself as a bargain grocer. The new 22,000-square-foot Valley location will be in the former Rite Aid drug store at 12115 E. Sprague Ave.. It will be the family-owned company's fourth Spokane-area store. It also has a store in Coeur d'Alene.

The announcement first appeared in Sunday's edition of The Spokesman-Review.

Refinanced bonds shave debt service by $1.5 million

Spokane Valley has refinanced about $7 million worth of bonds issued in 2003 to take advantage of lower interest rates, which the city says will reduce overall debt service by more than $1.5 million over the next 20 years.

Contributing to the savings was the Valley’s recent credit rating upgrade by Moody’s Investor Services, officials said.

“We know our residents are concerned about the economy and we felt these cost reduction efforts were important,” said City Manager Mike Jackson. “The city chose to enter the bond market now so that savings could be achieved while interest rates are still near generational lows.”

The 2003 bond issue raised $9.43 million for two primary projects.

Most of the borrowed money, about $7 million, was used to pay for construction of the CenterPlace regional meeting center and is being repaid by the Spokane Public Facilities District. About $5.65 million is still owing on that portion of the bond issue and the refinancing will save $1.38 million.

About $2.43 million of the original bond issue was dedicated to street and transportation improvements in the Valley and is being repaid by the city’s share of real estate excise tax revenue. About $1.39 million is still owing and the refinancing will save the city about $201,000.

The city said average interest rate for the refinanced bonds is 2.7 percent compared to 4.96 percent on the old debt. The refinancing occurred on Aug. 13. D.A. Davidson & Co. of Seattle acted as bond underwriter and Piper Jaffray, also of Seattle, acted as financial advisor for the refunding bonds.

More about those business licenses issued to new pot lounge

Spokane Valley officials are concerned that some readers may have mistakenly inferred the city is sanctioning marijuana use at a new members-only social club because it issued business licenses to the establishment.

The Lounge, located in the former Ringo's casino at Sprague and Bowdish, is getting around state prohibitions on public marijuana use by operating as a private club. Owners acknowledged in a July 26 article that they're operating in a legal gray area but believe they've cobbled together a legally defensible business model.

City spokeswoman Carolbelle Branch says the only business licenses the Valley has issued to the Lounge are for its social club and its consulting service, which is how the company refers to its on-site medical marijuana dispensary. Branch said the licenses in no way reflect the city's sanctioning of marijuana use on the premises, noting that regulatory power rests with other agencies.

The establishment is blending Washington's newfound tolerance for recreational marijuana with the more loosely regulated medical marijuana and the built-in loopholes that private social clubs have long enjoyed in this state. The result is a mix of regulatory jurisdictions, many of which are still trying to sort out the state's largely untested laws and how to enforce them.

Either way, as noted in the original article, law enforcement has pledged to take a zero tolerance approach to impaired driving regardless of whether it's drugs or alcohol

Valley imposes more restrictions on pot retailers

Valley leaders unanimously adopted new restrictions on recreational marijuana retailers tonight despite warnings from pot entrepreneurs that it could doom the fledgling industry's success here.

The local restrictions go beyond the existing state prohibitions on marijuana operations within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and libraries. In the Valley, retail operations also are now prohibited within 1,000 feet of the Centennial Trial and planned Appleway Trail, as well as any land earmarked for future schools, parks or libraries. A late addition to the ordinance also prohibits retail operations near Spokane Valley City Hall or city-owed property that could be used for parks or city operations in the future.

Several people urged the council to reject the additional restrictions, with some prospective retailers warning that they may have to consider a lawsuit against the city if the additional restrictions prevent them from finding suitable locations to open their stores.

Crystal Orcutt called the restrictions hypocritical because no other industry faces the same types of restrictions. Orcutt noted that there's an adult products emporium across the street from city hall and several bars and cocktail lounges nearby, both of which she suggested pose greater threats to the health of the community.

“The zoning restrictions that are being suggested here tonight are too restrictive,” she said.

The proposal was approved unanimously without comment by council members.

 

 

 

Valley pools open Saturday

Spokane Valley’s three public pools will open Saturday for the summer.

All cost $1 per person for open swim sessions, which are generally available seven days a week through August from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and again from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Be sure to check the schedule at each pool, though, since each has blackout dates for organized activities and offer varying times for morning and lunchtime lap swim sessions.

Park Road Pool, 906 N. Park Road, features a water slide called the Plunge. No evening sessions on Wednesdays. Closes for the season on Aug. 17.

Valley Mission Pool, 11123 E. Mission Ave., features water buckets and zero-depth entry pool. No evening sessions during weekdays from June 23 to July 31. Closes for the season on Aug. 23.

Terrace View Pool, 13525 E. 24th Ave., features a lazy river for watery floating relaxation. No evening sessions during weekdays from Aug. 4 to Aug. 28. Closes for the season on Sept. 1.

Swim passes are available for $20, which provide 25 entries to any of the Valley’s pools. Scholarship programs administered by Spokane Valley Partners also are available. Children under 5 are free with a paying adult.

Valley goes with Sunshine over Spokane County

It’s official.

After years of discussions and negotiations over regional garbage disposal, Spokane Valley is going its own way.

City Council members decided unanimously tonight to contract with Sunshine Disposal & Recycling to handle disposal of the Valley’s estimated 45,000 tons of garbage each year. The decision follows years of discussions with Spokane and county officials as the region’s existing solid waste system is set to expire this fall.

“We’re acting in the best longterm interests of our citizens,” said Mayor Dean Grafos.

Spokane County had struck a deal with Spokane, which has controlled the regional system for two decades, to take over the existing transfer stations and had hoped to create a countywide system it would control.

Commissioner Todd Mielke made a last-minute push tonight to persuade council members to postpone a final decision and give the county a chance to beat Sunshine’s rate. Mielke said the city of Spokane was trying to work out a reduced disposal rate at its energy-producing trash incinerators on the West Plains, which would enable the county to offer a tonnage rate nearly $4 lower and could amount to millions of dollars in savings over the next decade.

But Valley leaders rejected the delay request, with some noting that the Valley had openly sought a partnership role in a regional system but was repeatedly offered only an advisory role. They also noted that Sunshine stepped up with a guaranteed rate while the county provided only estimates and contingencies.

Additionally, Sunshine officials said it needs to get started immediately with planned expansion and improvements it is promising in order to be ready by mid-November when the new arrangement takes effect.

For residents, little will change. Waste Management still will handle curbside pick up, but instead of dumping the garbage at county transfer stations they’ll drop their loads at Sunshine’s facility on University Road north of Interstate 90. The garbage then will be loaded for long-haul to regional landfills in Central Washington.

Valley officials estimate the cost of solid waste disposal will be cheaper with Sunshine than under the county system. County officials contend the savings, if any, would be minimal.

Valley Council favors Sunshine Disposal offer

Spokane Valley likely will be taking a pass on joining the county's regional solid waste system.

The city council unanimously decided tonight to advance a proposed contract with Sunshine Disposal & Recycling for final consideration next week, despite warnings from county officials who contend that comparisons suggesting Valley residents would save at least $250,000 a year are flawed. Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke said the difference between the Sunshine rate and the county's estimate is almost indistinguishable when all variables are taken into account, while Commissioner Shelly O'Quinn added that the county plan provides greater overall cost benefits and better customer service.

City officials stood by their comparisons, however, and council members said it would be irresponsible to move forward with a county plan that lacks any rate guarantees. Sunshine's offer included a guaranteed rate with future increases kept below inflation.

The proposed Sunshine contract will be brought to a final vote next Tuesday.

Several other cities across Spokane County were meeting tonight to consider private-sector options as well.

Look for a roundup later this week in The Spokesman-Review.

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About this blog

Welcome to the Spokane Valley blog. Here we cover news, events and information from the greater Spokane Valley area, including Millwood, Otis Orchards, Liberty Lake, Newman Lake, Rockford and Fairfield.

Stop by often to find stories, information on events received too late to print in the Valley Voice and breaking news.

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