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Spokane Valley blog

Archive for December 2010

Coming on Saturday

Here's a few tidbits you can check out in Saturday's Valley Voice. The Spokane Valley City Council reversed themselves on the items they want to support at the 2011 Washington legislative session, despite having voted to approve them in October.

As the calendar rolls over to 2011, Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey is marking the end of his first year as mayor. We'll take a look at how he and others think it has gone. Plus, the Liberty Lake Police Department is celebrating the fact that it will get two new police cars in 2011 to replace aging, high mileage cruisers. The department has had to do without new cars for a couple years now.

There will be other nuggets in the pages. Make sure you grab a copy and take a look.

Today’s highlights

Kenai  is escorted by SCRAPS volunteer coordinator Francine Moniz to a kennel. Chances are good that Kenai will find her way home. She had both SpokAnimal and personal ID tags with a phone number, as well as a microchip. SR phot/J. Bart Rayniak

In today's Valley Voice, the Spokane Country Regional Animal Protection Service will lose its after  hours drop off room in January. People have been dropping off animals from other counties and abandoning pets there. The agency is also cramped for space and needs the room.

SCORE, a non-profit agency that helps local businesses, helped the owners of a Liberty Lake pet boutique open their doors. Also, former Spokane Valley city councilman Dick Denenny will be given the 2010 Citizen of the Year award in January by the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.

There is also some Valley news in the main paper today. Reporter Bert Caldwell writes that Greenstone Development Co. and its owner, Jim Frank, have been fined by the Department of Ecology for removing trees from a protected shoreline area at Liberty Lake. Frank is disputing the fine.

Holiday notes

Expect light posting the rest of the week, as I will be at home relaxing in my recliner again - provided I can manage to get home safely this afternoon. I'll poke my head in once or twice, but there won't much up on blog. Happy new year!

Roads are slipping

The scanner is beginning to hum with a steady stream of accidents caused by the weather, so be careful out there. Sullivan Road near the freeway is currently backed up because of a truck on fire. Drive safely!

2:47 p.m. update: Bigelow Gulch Road sounds particularly bad. A deputy said he has cars all over the ditch up there. It would probably be a good idea to avoid that area.

3:37 p.m. update: It tooks like northbound traffic on Argonne Road is completely shut down just north of Upriver Drive. There have been multiple accidents on the hill.

Coming Thursday

This cat was left at the SCRAPS after hours drop off sometime between 5:30 pm, Mon., Dec. 20, and 7:30 am Tuesday Dec. 21, 2010 with no paper work. So far 1,969 cats and dogs have been left at the receiving room, with 886 undocumented. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak 

Despite the short holiday week we've managed to put together yet another informative Valley Voice for Thursday. The Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS) will be losing its after hours drop off room, the only one in the region, sometime in January. The intent was to allow people a place to bring strays found on the street, but people have been using it to drop off animals found in other counties and pets who are no longer wanted.

There will be a preview of the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce awards gala in January, where former Spokane Valley city councilman Dick Denenny will receive the 2010 Harry E. Nelson Citizen of the Year award. A Liberty Lake pet boutique recently opened after its owners took advantage of the classes and mentoring offered by SCORE, a non-profit that assists local businesses.

Robbery reported in Millwood area

A 911 caller in the 8000 block of E. South Riverway in Millwood reports that three men robbed him at gunpoint in his home. More information to follow when available. 

4:35 p.m. update: The man said he and his mother were tied up by the robbers, but were able to free themselves.

Picture Perfect

A dog named Lucky romps in the snow in a Picture Perfect submission by Wende Barker that ran in the Valley Voice on Saturday.

Picture Perfect is a Spokane Valley scrapbook of people and events that we publish for free. If you would like to submit a photo to be published, send it to pictureperfect@spokesman.com. Please include the names and ages of everyone in the photo as well as information about where and when it was taken. Be sure to include your name and phone number so we can contact you if we need to.

Spokane Valley council meeting tonight

The Spokane Valley City Council will be back on the dias tonight after a week off for the holiday. The agenda looks pretty short and uneventful. The outgoing planning commission members will be recognized, there's a vote scheduled on some small changes to the city's governance manual and there will be discussion on a recent complaint about a false alarm fine. Looking ahead, most of the January meetings look fairly light, too, but that can change quickly. The meeting is at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague.

New fire truck pushed into station

Deputy chief Larry Rider and Chief Mike Thompson (in white) are joined by other Spokane Valley Fire Department employees and members of the community during a ceremony held last week to dedicate a new fire engine. The photo is courtesy of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

Spokane Valley Fire had a successful housing ceremony for its new Rescue 8 truck last week at Station 8 on Wilbur Road. A big crowd turned out to help push the truck into the station. The ceremony dates back to the days of horse-drrawn fire equipment that had to be pushed into the station by firefighters and neighbors since the horses couldn't back up the wagons. The department's honor guard and pipe and drum corp provided musical accompaniment for the pushing effort.

Saturday’s highlights

Members of the extended  Hughes family pose for a Christmas portrait in Spokane Valley. From left are  Cohen, 1, Mary, Andrew and Tula Hughes, 2 ; Sam, 8, Nichole,  Max, 11, and Matthew Bergam;  Janice Hughes stands beside her husband, Steve; Ian Hughes, far right, and his son, Hayden, 10, in front. The families recently purchased new homes with three of them swapping homes with other family members. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak.

There was a lot to see in Saturday's Valley Voice. The Hughes family did a four-way house swap among themselves, buying each other's houses one after the other. Spokane Valley city councilman Dean Grafos has been advocating putting a city hall near CenterPlace in the future, but city staff has to check and see if that's possible to do on the land donated for a community center and park.

The Liberty Lake City Council finally passed its 2011 budget with a unanimous vote. Painful cuts were averted, but there was considerable discussion on combining the golf course superintendent and park superintendent positions. Plus the Spokane Valley Fire Department is nearly ready to award a bid for construction of a new administration building.

Countdown to March

Merry early Christmas: Five Guys Burgers and Fries should open at 10 N. Sullivan in Spokane Valley in March. It will be the second location of the popular national chain to open in the area and franchise owner Wayne Sheffield also plans to open one on Spokane's north side, too. There's only one question left. Should I be there right when it opens, napkin in hand, or wait a week or so for the feeding frenzy to die down? Click here for more details and scroll down. 

Coming on Saturday

We've got a bunch of good stuff coming up in Saturday's Valley Voice. The Liberty Lake city council passed their 2011 budget this week. A lot of proposed cuts were washed away at the last minute thanks to some revenue changes. The golf pro is back, the library will be open as usual and the police department is getting a new car.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department is preparing to award a construction contract to build a new administration building next to Station 8 on Wilbur and do some repair and remodeling work at the training tower at Sullivan and Marietta. Spokane Valley city councilman Dean Grafos has been advocating building a city hall on land the city owns near CenterPlace and a preliminary evaluation suggests it would be feasible.

One scheduling note for next week: the Central Valley School District board meeting usually held on the fourth Monday of the month has been cancelled.

Today’s highlights

This is the second of two docks  that a judge says were built with a valid city-awarded exemption from the Shoreline Management Act. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

The City of Spokane Valley has come out ahead in a lawsuit filed against it by the Department of Ecology, but an attorney with Spokane Riverkeeper has already indicated he will likely file an appeal of the decision given by a Spokane County Superior Court judge. The lawsuit involves docks in the Coyote Rock development on the Spokane River. Read to see why some believe the docks are illegal.

Also in today's Valley Voice is a story on Meals on Wheels delivering donated pet food to home-bound senior citizens. Some seniors were sharing their food with their pets because they didn't have enough money for pet food.

Harvard Road blocked north of I-90

A head-on collision with injuries has been reported on Harvard Road just north of I-90. Police and fire are on the scene; an officer reports that the southbound lanes are blocked. Avoid the area for a while until everything is cleaned up.

Coming Thursday

One quick note before we get into Thursday's coming attractions. Expect light posting for the next couple of days as I stay home, sleep in and sit in my recliner. I promise to poke my head in at least once to post links to Thursday's stories and, thanks to the wonders of technology, I'll pre-write a preview of Saturday's Valley Voice that will post on Friday.

Now then, where were we. On Thursday I'll take another look at the situation involving docks installed illegally at the Coyote Rock development on the Spokane River near Plantes Ferry Park. The Department of Ecology sued the City of Spokane Valley over what it said were improper exemptions from the Shoreline Management Act.  A judge has recently released a letter of opinion in the case. Also, we'll have a great story on Meals on Wheels volunteers delivering pet food to seniors who would sometimes share their own food with their furry companion because they couldn't afford to buy pet food.

Arrests made in burglary

Two people have been arrested this week for the burglary of the home of Ernest Creach last week. Three people were seen running from the home by Creach's wife on Dec. 15. Several electronic items and a gun were reported missing. The third person has been identified but not yet arrested. Numerous stolen items were recovered during the arrests, according to a Spokane Valley Police Department press release. Click here to read more details and click here to read my original blog post on the burglary.

Thursday update: The third man has been arrested; more here.

New fire truck dedication ceremony Thursday

The new Rescue 8 truck will start serving Spokane Valley residents this week. Photo courtesy the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

Spokane Valley Fire is taking a ceremony used in other cities and making it it's own. A housing ceremony for the department's new Rescue 8 truck is set for 11 a.m. Thursday at Fire Station 8, where it will be housed. The station is at 2110 N. Wilbur just west of Pines and north of I-90.

The ceremony dates back to the days of horse-drawn fire equipment. The horses couldn't back the carriage into the fire stations, so the firemen had to do it themselves. There won't be any horses at Thursday's ceremony, but Chief Mike Thompson will speak and the Spokane Valley Fire Department Honor Guard will be in attendance.

The public is welcome, particularly those strong enough to help push the truck into the station and kids who just want to admire the shiny new rig. Refreshments will be served after the ceremony. 

Accident blocking Highway 27 at Jackson Road

An accident is currently blocking Highway 27 at Jackson Road in the Freeman area. No details are available yet.

Five Guys in Spokane Valley?

Some work is going on at 10 N. Sullivan at the site of an old Hollywood Video store next to Petco. A check of the online Washington State business license directory shows that Montana Burgers Inc. applied for a business license at that location this month under the name Five Guys Burgers and Fries. A franchise of the national chain opened on Spokane's South Hill this year and people have been raving about their food. I'm sure fans of the business will be eagerly watching this location in the coming weeks. 

Sign work

We took a look out our office windows a bit ago and noticed some work going on with the Value Village sign at Sprague and McDonald. Yesterday a new green sign that says “community donation center” was added to the front of the store. The photo was taken by reporter Lisa Leinberger.

Liberty Lake council tonight

I nearly forgot to mention the Liberty Lake City Council meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 22710 E. Country Vista Drive. It’s the last meeting of the year (unless another special meeting is scheduled), so the council must approve the 2011 budget. It looks like things won’t be as dire as once thought; the city discovered last week that they have more income than anticipated.

The meeting will also include a discussion of the 2011 animal control contract with SCRAPS and the presentation of Liberty Lake Police Department awards.

A look at Christmas past

Here’s a little something to get us in a Christmas spirit - a photo taken by Spokesman-Review photographer Bart Rayniak in December 2009 of a festive home on McKinzie Road in Otis Orchards. Is it just me or do fewer people seem to be decorating their homes this year? I saw a couple of elaborate displays this weekend out in the Saltese area. Has anyone else seen any good ones?

Saturday’s highlights

Spokane Valley Heritage Museum volunteers Herman Meier and Al Shrock get a hand from Don Gorman covering the sign to protect it from deteriorating. The museum hopes to raise $10,000 to restore the original 1912 scroll sign above the entrance to the historic Opportunity Township Hall. SR photo/Bart Rayniak 

I hope everyone out there is safe and sound this morning, what with all the accident reports on the scanner. I always say that when the roads are nasty there is no shame in creeping along (particularly since I nearly impaled my car on my concrete retaining wall yesterday).

So, on to the highlights from Saturday’s Valley Voice. The Spokane Valley Heritage Museum is raising money to restore the nearly 100-year old historic scroll sign on the front of the historic building that houses the museum. Volunteers recently covered the sign with black plastic to slow the deterioration.

The second story on the Spokane Valley City Council meeting included a variety of discussions and decisions. Longtime volunteer and Valleyfest organizer Peggy Doering nearly lost her seat on the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee after an unexpected push to replace her. The renewal of the city’s street maintenance contract was narrowly approved after it hit a speed bump. The council also discussed whether to raise stormwater fees or allow Spokane County to raise sewer rates, since one of the fees will have to go up.

Parents in the Central Valley School District should note that the school board has approved new elementary school attendance boundaries in Liberty Lake and Greenacres that will take effect if a bond that would pay for a new elementary school (plus other projects) is approved by voters in the spring.

Christmas shopping help

Here it is the last weekend before Christmas and your holiday shopping isn’t done. What to do? The Freeman High School Future Business Leaders of America club is willing to help by offering child care for people who need to go buy some last minute gifts and slip them into the house when certain young family members aren’t looking.

Parents can drop their kids off at the school, located on Jackson Road at Highway 27, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The students have organized a jumping castle, games, movies, sports and food for the kids. Of course, you can drop your kids off even if you have all  your shopping done and just need a quiet day.

Donations will be accepted at the door. The event is a fundraiser for the Freeman FBLA.

Coming Saturday

There are a couple things coming up in Saturday’s must have edition of the Valley Voice. (But then, aren’t they all must have editions?) Staff at the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum are trying to restore the original scroll sign mounted on the Sprague-facing side of the historic building that houses the museum. The sign is deteriorating and has been covered to slow the ravages of time while the museum raises money to restore the sign.

Tuesday’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting was so lengthy that it couldn’t all be included in a story in yesterday’s Valley Voice. The second installment features some unexpected controversy with votes on the street maintenance contract and the make-up of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee. The council also has finally approved the purchase of equipment so council meetings can be broadcast on cable and over the internet.

One scheduling note for next week: the Spokane Valley City Council meeting normally held every Tuesday has been cancelled because of the Christmas holiday. The next meeting is set for Dec. 28.

Van reported in flames

Spokane Valley Fire crews are responding to a fire in the 600 block of South McKinnon. The first engine on the scene reports that the van is fully involved in fire, but flames have not yet spread to the adjacent garage.

A window to the soul

Don’t these sad eyes just beg you to take this dog home? Rex is up for adoption at the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service and would love to have a new home for Christmas. He’s already been neutered and is about three or four years old. The shelter staff describe the St. Bernard mix as a “gentle giant” and say he is good with children. In this picture his white body blends into the snow in the background, but the eyes say it all.

When you head out to 2421 N. Flora Road to bring Rex home with you, he is known as number 6865. The adoption fee for dogs is $82.04 and includes a vet visit, license, spaying or neutering, vaccinations and a microchip. The photo is courtesey of SCRAPS.

Today’s highlights

Six-year old Shain Cothren of Suncrest holds a homing pigeon Sunday that will fly to the North Pole to deliver his Christmas wish list (attached to the right leg) to Santa Claus. He asked for a monster house and a Transformer. SR photo/Bart Rayniak

We’ve got a busy Valley Voice today, so grab a cup of coffee and get settled in. A new Christmas tree lot at Pines and Mansfield is offering a unique perk. Kids can send their letters to Santa at the North Pole via homing pigeon, which has apparently been a big hit. Readers following the exploits of “Chicken” can read an update by correspondent Stefanie Pettit on how well the bird is settling into her new home. 

This week the Spokane Valley city council voted by a slim majority to name Bill Bates, the half-brother of the mayor, to the city’s planning commission despite protests from some council members that it appears to be a conflict of interest. Things are looking a little less dire in Liberty Lake than they were last week. The city council there held a special budget meeting this week and voted on how to allocate an extra $140,000 in income to alleviate cuts previously proposed.

Liberty Lake police have made arrests in a long string of garage burglaries and vehicle prowls. They’ve also had a break in multiple thefts of flat screen televisions from RV’s. The Spokane Valley Planning Commission met to discussed a proposed emergency ordinance to remove the City Center zone from the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan. The majority voted to recommend that the city council reject the amendment, but it doesn’t end there. The issue will be considered by the council at the Jan. 4 meeting.

Burglary just reported in Spokane Valley

A burglary in the 14200 block of East Eighth was just reported. The caller said three men ran out the back door. All are decribed as white males. One was wearing brown flannel and the second is decribed as having curly hair and wearing a hoodie and jeans. There is no description for the third man. They were last seen heading east and then south. Police are coming into the area now.

11:54 a.m. update: The burglars got away with a cell phone, wii and other items. The search continues.

11:55 a.m. update: Adams Elementary, located only a couple blocks away, is going into lockdown. Dispatchers are also notifying nearby St. Mary’s Catholic School. An officer reports there are children outside on the playground.

11:58 a.m. update: An officer reports the burglars may be armed with a semi-automatic handgun.

12:22 p.m. update: Officers are being released from perimeter duty as the Sheriff’s Office helicopter is almost on scene to take a look from the air. The search is still continuing, however.  

2:24 p.m. update: The search has apparently come up empty. The scanner is quiet. Spokane County Assessor’s Office records show the home is owned by Ernest Creach, son of the Rev. Wayne Creach. The school lockdowns were lifted some time ago. Click here to read a story by reporter Thomas Clouse.

Coming Thursday

Tools of the trade: Liberty Lake police believe these items were used to commit numerous garage burglaries and car prowls in Liberty Lake in recent weeks. Photo is courtesy the Liberty Lake Police Department.

It has been an interesting week or so in Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake and the stories coming up in Thursday’s Valley Voice will have the highlights. Liberty Lake Police believe they have arrested a couple who are responsible for a series of garage burglaries and vehicle prowls in recent weeks. Both have extensive criminal histories and the male was arrested in Liberty Lake for similar crimes in 2006.

The Liberty Lake City Council held a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the 2011 budget, which has been the subject of some controversy. The Spokane Valley City Council voted by a narrow majority in a contentious meeting to appoint the mayor’s half-brother to the planning commission.

Last week the Spokane Valley Planning Commission met and the majority voted to recommend that the city council reject a proposed emergency comprehensive plan amendment to remove the City Center zone from the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan. Some of the commissioners, however, said they believed the city council would ignore their recommendation.

If so much city government conflict has you reaching for your Tylenol, there will also be a fun story on a new Christmas tree lot that allows kids to write a letter to Santa and sends it to the North Pole via homing pigeon.

Poetry stylings of a fire marshal

In reaction to last night’s kitchen fire at Station 6, Spokane Valley Fire assistant fire marshal Bill Clifford put pen to paper to write up the incident in a poem pattered after the classic “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

A few notes before we begin. There is not actually a location of Fifth and Oak in Spokane Valley. Call it poetic license for rhyming reasons. And a yelp is apparently the name of a specific setting on the fire deparment sirens. (You learn something new every day.)

So without further ado, here is “Twas Almost the Night before Christmas” by Bill Clifford. (Click to read the extended post.)

Fire station burns

Spokane Valley Fire Department firefighter Joe Rees, paramedic/engineer Dave Fegele and Capt. Chris Neumann put out a kitchen fire caused by a faulty dishwasher inside Station 6 on Monday. The photo is courtesy of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

Spokane Valley Fire crews didn’t have far to go to put out a fire just after 11 p.m. Monday. It was in their own kitchen.

A crew from Station 6 on the west end of Spokane Valley near Sprague and I-90 was returning to the station from a call when they noticed a smoke alarm beeping, said assistant fire marshal Bill Clifford. Black smoke and flames were spotted in the station’s kitchen and the crew put it out with a fire extinguisher. An additional crew was called in to help make sure the fire was out.

The fire, which caused $5,000 in damage, was traced to a malfunctioning dishwasher that had apparently been subject to a recall. The dishwasher was between five and 10 years old. “It started right in the control panel,” said Clifford.

The fire burnt the front of the washer and had spread to the countertop before it was discovered. Cleaning crews spent the day Tuesday cleaning carpets and furniture so crews could move back into the station. “They’ve been responding from Station 1 all day,” Clifford said.

Memorial for Spokane Valley businessman is Thursday

A memorial service for longtime Spokane Valley businessman Milt Neumann has been set for 11 a.m. Thursday at the Hazen and Jaeger Funeral Home, 1306 N. Pines Road. Neumann, 78, was the founder and CEO of A to Z Rental and a board member of the Spokane Valley Business Association. Neumann died earlier this month of heart failure in Mesa, Ariz. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Alice, as well as three children, six grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and four brothers.

The old Morrison Ranch

Cattle don’t graze in large numbers on the Saltese flats anymore, but the current Morrison family home is still perched up on the hill even as more and more of the flats are seeing a bumper crop of new development. Pictured here is the Morrison Ranch circa the 1920’s in the Saltese Flats area of the Valley. The photo was donated to the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum by Bud Morrison. Photo courtesy of the Spokane Valley Heritage Musuem.

Santa Claus is coming to town

And he is most certainly making his list and checking it twice. The jolly red-robed one will be touring neighborhoods in Fire District 8 south of the Spokane and Spokane Valley city limits every night this week. Since his reindeer are resting up for the big night, he will be ferried around by a fire engine.

He’ll be making the rounds from 5:30 to 8 p.m. today through Wednesday. Here’s the schedule: Today - Ponderosa neighborhood south of 44th Ave.; Tuesday - Painted Hills and Bella Vista neighborhoods, plus the Albertsons parking lot at 32nd and Highway 27; Wednesday - Saltese and Morningside neighborhoods.

The rest of the week he’ll be out and about from 5 to 8 p.m.: Thursday - Moran Prairie east of Regal and south of 57th and the Hangman Valley area; Friday - Moran Prairie west of Regal and north of 57th; Saturday - Moran Prairie west of Regal and south of 57th; Sunday - Moran Prairie east of Regal and north of 57th and the Hangman Valley area.

Any schedule updates can be found on the district’s web site.  

Saturday’s highlights

Pasadena Park Elementary volunteer Cheri Reed helps third-grader Grace Peters find the perfect gift for her family at the Scholar Dollar Christmas store, which she organizes. SR photo/Bart Rayniak

Now that we’re all up on this fine Monday morning and on our first (or second) cup of coffee, it’s time to take a look at some highlights from Saturday’s Valley Voice in case you missed it. Spokane Valley Fire is heading up a new ambulance contract that includes nearly every fire department and district in the county. Response times are down and some tweaks are being made to the contract to make it better.

A volunteer grandma at Pasadena Park Elementary spends her December running the Scholar Dollar store for children who have earned points by reading. They can spend their points on Christmas gifts. Spokane Valley Partners is not having a Season of Sharing this year due to budget cuts.

An audit of 2009 records shows no problems for the City of Spokane Valley, according to auditors. However, the city is dealing with a criminal case against a former employee for theft of city money. Millwood residents will see increases in their water and sewer rates beginning Jan. 1. And at Tuesday’s Spokane Valley council meeting, deputy mayor Gary Schimmels will recommend that the council appoint the mayor’s half-brother to the planning commission.

Christmas in Fairfield

Fairfield Care will celebrate its first Christmas with a community celebration. The meal will be potluck, but there will also be prizes, bingo, Christmas carols and Christmas presents for children 12 and under. If you’re looking for a bit of holiday cheer, head to 503 S. Hilltop Lane from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Bring your favorite dish or dessert to share and a few $1 bills to buy Bingo cards. Who’s got a great casserole recipie?

What’s on tap

There are some interesting meetings coming up next week. The Spokane Valley City Council will meet at its usual time at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague. There are several proposed motions on the agenda, including approval of several street maintenance contracts. The council will also vote on the purchase of broadcasting equipment and changes to the Spokane County Jail and Gieger interlocal agreements.

But the votes that might generate the most discussion are the ones to dole out lodging tax money to local organizations and the selection of two new planning commission members. Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels has recommended that one of those new members be Bill Bates, the mayor’s half brother. Click here for my story on the issue.

The City of Liberty Lake has scheduled a special meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 22710 E. Country Vista Drive, to discuss the 2011 budget. Recent discussions on the budget have been somewhat heated and this week one council member got up and walked out of the meeting in frustration. Proposals to cut library hours and shut the golf course down for the winter have been generating most of the angst. The council must pass the budget by the end of the year. 

Coming Saturday

Saturday’s Valley Voice will have a bit of everything - school kids, emergency services and city government. The students at Pasadena Park Elementary spent the fall reading to earn points. Now they’re spending those points to buy Christmas gifts at the Scholar Dollar Store run by Cheri Reed.

The new contract between American Medical Response and the majority of the fire districts and departments in Spokane County seems to be going well. Spokane Valley Fire is administering the contract and data shows that response times are dropping. Auditors gave the City of Spokane Valley a clean bill of health this week, but the city is currently involved in a criminal case against a former employee who is facing felony theft charges for allegedly stealing money from city deposits.

And in a story that shows how the economy is affecting everyone, Spokane Valley Partners has announced that there will be no Season of Sharing this year.

Read tomorrow’s stories here for more details.

Mayor’s brother picked for planning commission

Spokane Valley Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels is recommending that Bill Bates, mayor Tom Towey’s half-brother, be appointed to one of the two vacant seats on the planning commission. Bates retired from Rosauer’s as vice president of retail operations for 26 stores. Schimmels is recommending that the second seat go to Joseph Stoy, a design manager at Baker Construction and Development. The full city council is scheduled to vote on Schimmels’ recommendation during the Dec. 14 council meeting.

In interviews this week both Towey and Bates said they did not think it would be a conflict of interest if Bates is selected for the unpaid position.

 

River users feel betrayed

The Barker Road Bridge the day it opened back up to traffic in June 2010 after being closed for two years. SR photo/Bart Rayniak.

Outdoors writer Rich Landers has a story today about problems with river access after the construction of the Barker Bridge. Kayakers and fishermen could access the river there before the bridge was built and the City of Spokane Valley changed the design of the bridge to maintain the access. But now river users say the access point is worse than it was before and there are now new problems with erosion at the site. Read the story to find the response of city officials.

Rich also has a blog post with before and after photos of the launch area.

Today’s highlights

For 22 years, Santa has stood proudly in the parking lot at the White Elephant store on East Sprague Avenue in the Spokane Valley waving at passerby. The 13-foot tall statue once graced the windows of The Crescent department store in downtown Spokane. SR photo/Bart Rayniak.

There is a lot of Valley news to read today in the paper, so here’s the lineup. Budget discussions in Liberty Lake have been so contentious that a council member walked out of this week’s council meeting in frustration. One of the candidates for two vacant Spokane Valley Planning Commission seats is the half-brother of Mayor Tom Towey, but neither think his involvement is a conflict of interest. The mayor has recused himself from the appointment process, which will be handled by Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels.

Students at Otis Orchards Elementary are being exposed to art, theater, sports and martial arts thanks to a new after school program known as the Orchard Project. Correspondent Stefanie Pettit has a regular Landmarks feature that examines various local historic and iconic sites. This week she writes about the Santa at the White Elephant store that used to be on display at The Crescent department store.

In other Spokane Valley news, a Montana fugitive was arrested by police late Tuesday night. He led police on a chase before hitting a snow berm.

Planning Commission meeting on emergency amendment

The Spokane Valley Planning Commission meeting Thursday will include a public hearing on an emergency comprehensive plan amendment to remove the City Center zone of the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan and replaced it with mixed use zoning. There will also be a study session on a proposed code text amendment on the definition of adult retail.  The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague.

Coming Thursday

There are a few goodies on tap for tomorrow’s Valley Voice. A Liberty Lake city council member was so frustrated during Tueday’s meeting focusing on the 2011 budget that she got up and walked out. A special meeting has been called for 6 p.m. Dec. 14 for further budget discussions at City Hall, 22710 E. Country Vista Drive.

The Spokane Valley city council moved rapidly through a lengthy agenda that looked like it would drag on forever. No big decisions during this week’s study session, but several interesting votes are scheduled for next week. I’ve also put together a story on the applicants for the two planning comission vacancies and why the mayor won’t be making the recommendations this year.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger has put together a story on the Orchard Project, an after school program at Otis Orchards Elementary. And the recent bad weather appears to have kept car prowling thieves in Liberty Lake from making the rounds. We’ll see if that remains the case during the relatively warm weather this week. 

Tree of Sharing update

Yesterday’s Spokane Valley Fire shopping trip at the Valley Mall to benefit the Tree of Sharing was a rousing success. Pictured are some of the 43 firefighters and department employees who picked up 75 gift tags and shopped for local low income residents. The photo is courtesy of the Spokane Valley Fire Department. 

Garage fire caused by gas fumes igniting

A Spokane Valley man learned the hard way this afternoon that gasoline fumes and open flames don’t mix. The man was apparently working on his snowmobile when gas fumes ignited and his garage burned, according to a press release from assistant fire marshal Bill Clifford of Spokane Valley Fire

Seven fire trucks responded to the location at 3102 N. Lily Road just after noon. When firefighters arrived the garage was aflame and a neighbor’s garage was also beginning to burn. No one was injured in the fire. The garage and its contents were a total loss. The neighbor’s garage sustained $1,000 in damage. The photo is courtesy of Spokane Valley Fire.

Spokane Valley audit exit conference

Representatives from the Washington State Auditors Office have been auditing the City of Spokane Valley for several weeks. The exit conference is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in the council chambers at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague. Council members are expected to attend the meeting, which is open to the public. An official audit report will be released at a later date.

Garage fire

Spokane Valley Fire units are heading to a fully involved garage fire on Lily Road north of Woodard Elementary. On the scanner it sounds like some fire engines were delayed for several minutes because of a train. “We’re all stacked up on Park waiting for this train,” one firefighter said.

Old Highway 10

This sign welcomed drivers to Washington as they crossed Idaho-Washington state line on Highway 10 before Interstate 90 was constructed. The photo is courtesy of the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum.

Tree of Sharing

I’m told that about 30 firefighters from Spokane Valley Fire will be stopping by the Valley Mall today at noon to purchase gifts for the Tree of Sharing. Every year the trees are put up in local malls decorated with tags listing gifts or needed items for low income families. If you would like to join the firefighters as they give back to the community, head over and get a tag or two for yourself.  

Convenience store robbieries

On the heels of last week’s bank robbery are two convenience store robberies, the most recent this morning. An armed man entered the Zip Trip at 15504 E. Fourth at about 2:30 a.m. today. The clerk told police that the man brandished a black pistol and demanded cash from the till. He ran south toward an apartment complex. A K9 team tracked the robber to the complex parking lot before losing the scent, said police spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan.

He was described as a white male in his early 20’s, about 6’ 01” tall and 170 pounds. He was wearing a black ski mask, black gloves, black pants and shoes and a black “puffy” coat over a white shirt.

The other robbery was at the Holiday Gas Station at 2303 N. Argonne just after 3 a.m. Saturday. The clerk reported seeing a black semi-automatic pistol. The robber in this case was described as a thin white male in his late teens or early 20’s. He was wearing dark pants and a white t-shirt as well as a ski mask and gloves. He left heading north on foot.

Anyone with information on the two robberies is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Council meetings Tuesday

Both Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake are back in the swing of things with council meetings Tuesday night. The Spokane Valley meeting will include a proposed resolution amending the master fee schedule, a report on lodging tax proposals, a report on railroad crossing quiet zones, information on jail interlocal agreements and an update on the regional animal control facility. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague.

The Liberty Lake city council is scheduled to select an official newspaper and have the final public hearing on the proposed 2011 budget. There has been a lot of talk about cutting library hours and shutting the city’s golf course during the winter, which has generated a negative response in the community. The council is scheduled to vote on the budget after the hearing. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 22710 E. Country Vista Drive.

Saturday’s highlights

Tyler Brink pulls his homemade ski sled and Eric Wagemann trudges his homemade “ski bike” up a hill at Valley Mission Park on Wednesday. The hill has been busy since the recent snowfall and several injuries occurred on the popular sledding hill over the weekend. SR photo/Bart Rayniak

In case you missed Saturday’s Valley Voice, check out these links to some of our stories from the weekend. Students at Sunrise Elementary had a fun time making paper masks and writing songs to go with them last week. Doctors at Valley Hospital and Medical Center reported treating more than 30 people over the long Thanksgiving weekend for sledding injuries at Valley Mission Park - everything from a punctured lung to fractured spines. People appear to be sledding in a closed area with more obstacles rather than the traditional sledding hill next to Splash Down.

The Spokane Valley Hearing Examiner has decided that the designation of a lab/husky mix named Casey as a dangerous dog by SCRAPS will stand. The owner had appealed the label, which includes requirements for extra insurance, sturdy fencing and following other restrictions. Spokane Valley Fire has approved a 2011 budget that includes construction of a new administration building and no property tax levy increase.

Coming on Saturday

Jerry Stout puts the finishing touches on his snowman he built in his Upriver Drive apple orchard on Thursday. “The snow is actually working, and I’m out of work, so I’ve got the time,” remarked the 65-year-old. He found buttons in his wife’s sewing kit for eyes, painted a night light for the nose, and used yarn for the mouth. SR photo/Bart Rayniak

Recent snow has been a boon for sledders but people need to be careful when zipping down a hard packed, icy hill. The emergency room at the Valley Hospital and Medical Center saw more than 30 injured sledders over the extended Thanksgiving weekend with broken bones and other serious injuries. Take a look at the story in Saturday’s Valley Voice.

Also coming Saturday is a peek into classrooms at Sunrise Elementary when students got to make paper masks. Plus Spokane Valley Fire has been dealing with surge in calls related to the bad weather, including more car accidents and broken water and sprinkler system pipes.

Bank robbery update

No arrest has been made in yesterday’s bank robbery. A K9 team was unable to track the suspect and people in a home that drew police’s attention for a time turned out to be uninvolved, according to police spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan.

The robber got away with an undisclosed amount of cash, which was placed into a green and blue bag. Anyone with information on the robbery is asked to call Crime Check at 456-2233.

In other police news, detectives pursuing leads in a counterfeiting investigation seized drugs, guns and cash from a home in an undisclosed location in Spokane Valley yesterday. When detectives arrived at the home they smelled the odor of marijuana and the residents gave them permission to search the home, Reagan said.

Police found two pounds of harvested marijuana, more than two pounds of psilocybin mushrooms, a small amount of ecstacy, a 12 gauge shotgun, a stolen 9mm pistol and $5,000 in cash. No additional details on the identity of the residents is being released at this time.

Update: Crimes Stoppers of the Inland Northwest is now offering a cash reward for information that solves yesterday’s bank robbery. Anyone with information can call (800) 222-TIPS or visit the web site. Tipsters do not need to identify themselves.

Bank robbery near Sprague and Bowdish

The Sterling Savings bank near Sprague and Bowdish was robbed just before 2:30 p.m. Police are flooding the area. Dispatchers say the suspect is discribed as a white male, age 25-30, about 5’ 6” tall and 130 pounds. He was reportedly wearing a dark coat, stocking cap and blue jeans. He brandished a chrome .45 caliber automatic handgun. More details when available.

2:40 update: Police found a piece of cloth the robber used to cover his face. A K9 is on the way to start tracking efforts.

2:49 update: Broadway Elementary School, located a few blocks from the bank, is locked down.

3:07 p.m.: Attention is focusing on a house on Skipworth. I have to leave the scanner, but check back tomorrow for more information.

Santa hits the road

The jolly man himself is planning a couple of stops in the Valley area this weekend as kids start polishing their Christmas lists and trying to behave. Because he KNOWS if you’ve been bad or good.

Santa will make an appearance at the annual Millwood Christmas tree lighting Friday at 6 p.m. at Inland Empire Paper, 3320 N. Argonne. The event will include a performance by The Company Ballet Dane Troupe. There will also be hot chocolate, cookies and caroling.

On Saturday Santa is expected to attend a breakfast hosted by the Spokane Valley Rotary Club from 9 to 11 a.m. at CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place. The morning includes carnival games, face painting and goody bags. Kids can have their pictures taken with Santa, who is expected to arrive at 9:30 a.m. on an engine from Spokane Valley Fire. (The reindeer have to rest up for Christmas Eve.) The breakfast is $4 at the door.

Today’s highlights

Two contracted graders clear compact snow and ice off 15th Avenue just east of McDonald Road in Spokane Valley on Monday. SR photo/Bart Rayniak

There are a few good reads in today’s Valley Voice. The City of Spokane Valley’s public works director believe’s the city’s plowing program has passed its first big test. Crews completed their first all-city plow this week.

Opportunity Presbyterian Church is bringing it’s Toy Store back on Saturday, selling toys at a steep discount to low income families. Correspondent Stefanie Pettit wrote about her non-traditional Thanksgiving celebration at a local hotel. People who like to read the love stories columns by Cindy Hval can read a new one about a couple married since 1942 who moved 22 times because of the husband’s Air Force career.

Traffic lights out along Argonne

All traffic lights are out at the intersections of Argonne and Knox and Argonne and Broadway. Others may be out as well. A dispatcher reports that Avista had to turn off power in the area temporarily to deal with a downed power line. A deputy is asking for temporary stop signs at the Knox intersection because people are “blowing right through the lights.”

Valley Mission Park sledding

In this 2008 photo Chad Gilbert leaps onto his snow sled at the top of the sledding hill at Valley Mission Park. SR photo/Bart Rayniak.

Does anyone out there have a story to tell about sledding at Valley Mission Park? I’m working on a story for Saturday and would love to talk to people who have used the hill. Send me an email at ninac@spokesman.com. Be sure to include your full name and a phone number where you can be contacted.

Think of warmer times

If you are tired of looking at snow and ice, take a look at the Corbin irrigation ditch, which was constructed in the early 1920s, east of Otis Orchards in the Spokane Valley. If you know a long-time Valley resident, ask them about how the kids used to use it as the world’s longest water slide. The photo is courtesy the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum.

Thursday previews

As always, there is something to look forward to in Thursday’s Valley Voice. All this snow has been the City of Spokane Valley’s first big test of its relatively new snow plow program and things have been going smoothly thanks to a mild winter breaking in period last winter. Opportunity Presbyterian Church will host its annual Toy Store this weekend, offering toys at a steep discount for low income families referred by local shelters and other agencies. Regular correspondent Stefanie Pettit will write about her non-traditional Thanksgiving spent away from home.

Check back in tomorrow and I’ll post some links for your perusal.

Freeman schools two hours late, Liberty closed

The hopes of students in the Freeman area for a snow day have not been answered. Freeman schools are running two hours late this morning. Preschool and skill center have been cancelled, however. The Liberty School District announced yesterday that it would also be running two hours late, but said at 6:30 a.m. this morning that classes would be cancelled instead.

As of last reports Highway 27 was still open, but everyone drive carefully out there. Some roads are downright nasty.

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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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Nina Culver (@ninaculver) Nina Culver covers city of Spokane Valley, Spokane Valley Fire Department, Newman Lake Fire and Rescue, Spokane County Fire District 8, Liberty Lake Police Department and the small towns of Fairfield and Rockford.

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