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Spokane Valley blog

Archive for May 2011

Police support Special Olympics

A team of local law enforcement members will gather in Liberty Lake Wednesday morning at 5:30 a.m. to begin their leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run that will go throughout Washington and end at the 2011 Washington State Special Olympics Summer Games in King County on June 3. According to a Spokane County Sheriff's Office press release, officers will carry the torch through Liberty Lake, Millwood and Spokane Valley and Spokane. Be extra vigilant when driving area roads tomorrow and keep an eye out for the torch runners.

Traffic issues

There are a few small projects happening on Spokane Valley streets this week that will create occasional traffic problems. The southbound curb lane on Argonne Road will be closed just north of Knox Avenue on Wednesday, so expect congestion as people try to merge into one lane. Sidewalk repair work will be happening on Broadway between Moore and Flora through Friday. Expect narrowed lanes and some delays.

Then, of course, there are the multiple street closures in Greenacres for sewer installation work. The project to extend Indiana Avenue to the intersection of Mission and Flora is also ongoing.

Fire on North Argonne

Spokane Valley Fire Department crews are responding to a call reporting a structure fire at 1121 N. Argonne. The caller said he could see smoke coming from the north building near Boone. The first crew on the scene said there is a light amount of smoke visible and the building is being evacuated.

Update: The smoke apparently came from a malfunctioning motor.

Meet arson dog Mako

During a media demonstration at Valley Fire Station 8 in September, 2010, Spokane Valley Fire Department fire investigator Rick Freier shows how his K-9 partner Mako, an arson dog, can sniff out gasoline and other liquid accelerants used by arsonists. SR photo/Colin Mulvaney

If you've never had a chance to meet Mako, the Spokane Valley Fire Department's arson dog, head to the Spokane Valley City Council meeting tonight. Mako and his handler, assistant fire marshal Rick Freier, will be on hand for a demonstration near the beginning of the meeting. Mako is a friendly fellow with a keen nose that can pick up a single drop of an accelerant. And once the demonstration is over, you can sneak out the door unless you'd like to stick around for an hour or two of discussion on regional government, municipal economics and solid waste. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague.

Saturday’s highlights

The original historic metal gates to the Fairfield Cemetery, damaged in an ice storm two years ago, have been restored and will be rededicated in a Memorial Day ceremony, Mon., May 30, 2011. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak.

Well, I didn't manage to make it on the computer yesterday to post Saturday's Valley Voice links. What can I say. The weather was better than expected and we did some running around. Now then, on to the interesting stuff. There was a Memorial Day celebration yesterday in Fairfield and the historic 1895 gates were re-dedicated. The town of Millwood is getting ready to host the West Valley Days community event this weekend and it promises to be a lot of fun.

Correspondent Jill Barville talked with popular preschool teacher Diane Knowles on the eve of her retirement after 32 years in the classroom. Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a report on the latest East Valley School District meeting held to discuss the changes coming up, including the closure of Mountain View Middle School and transferring students from Skyview Elementary. This week's education column by Lisa is also packed with news, including details on a new Central Valely elementary principal and which Central Valley board member has resigned.

Last week the Spokane Valley City Council had a long discussion on whether or not to accept a grant from the Department of Ecology to help pay for the city's work to update the Shoreline Master Program, which is required by state law. After the lengthy debate, the majority of the council voted to apply for the grant.

Coming on Saturday

We had so many stories for tomorrow's Valley Voice we literally could not fit them all in. So a few (including the Liberty Lake police blotter) will be held over until Thursday. But you will still get some great stories tomorrow. The Fairfield Cemetery Association will host a Memorial Day celebration on Monday to honor veterans and re-dedicate the century old cemetery gates. Reporter Lisa Leinberger will have a report on the latest special East Valley School District board meeting where they again discussed the closure of Mountain View Middle School. The West Valley Days celebration in Millwood is coming up next weekend and we'll have your schedule for that. And the Spokane Valley City Council this week voted, after much discussion, to apply for a Department of Ecology grant and to buy new permit tracking software.

Of course we all know that Monday is a holiday. What does that mean for you? It means the City of Spokane Valley offices will be closed and so will this blog. I might post some links if I feel ambitious, but don't expect much else. Besides, we'll probably all be huddling in the back yard trying to have the traditional Memorial Day barbecue in the rain. Have a great weekend!

Spokane Valley arsonist sentenced to 10 years in prison

Arsonist Anthony W. Sotin was sentenced to 10 years in prison today in a Federal courtroom after the judge gave him a lecture and said he'd like to send him to prison longer, given his lengthy criminal history and previous conviction for arson. He is 42 years old and his first brush with the law was at age 14. Sotin pleaded guilty to lighting his own car on fire on Jan. 12 and a burning a commerical building in the 13400 block of East Nora on Feb. 9. Reporter Tom Clouse has the full story here.

Greenacres man arrested after ramming truck twice

The Spokane Valley Police Department announced this morning the arrest of a Greenacres man after he allegedly rammed a parked truck in the 14800 block of East Fourth around 2 a.m. A woman called police to report that a red Ford truck had hit her neighbor's Chevy truck once, then backed up and hit it again, pusing it into the street. She was able to get the license number from the Ford and give it to police. They arrived at the man's home and found him smelling of alcohol. Reporter Meghann Cuniff has more details here.

November 2011 elections

It seems awfully early to be talking about the elections scheduled for this fall, but it's really not. The candidate filing week is June 6-10 and there are a ton of seats up for election in local city councils and school boards. Anyone who doesn't file at the Spokane County Elections Office by the end of the day on June 10 will not be on the ballot this fall. Some candidates, however, have already thrown their hat in the ring by filling out Public Disclosure Commission documents so they can start fundraising now.

The City of Spokane Valley has four council seats up for election and three of those already have announced candidates. Councilman Dean Grafos is running for re-election and planning commission chairman John Carroll has filed to run against him. The newest appointees to the council, Arne Woodard and Chuck Hafner, are running for election in order to continue serving out the terms they were appointed to. So far no one has filed to run against them. Councilman Bill Gothmann has announced he will not run for re-election and so far no one has filed for his seat (though I am hearing things that indicate that will change soon).

And it's not just Spokane Valley. This fall the Liberty Lake Mayor and four council seats are up for election. There are three seats on the Millwood City Council, plus three each on the Fairfield City Council, Latah City Council, Rockford City Council, Central Valley School District and Freeman School District. There are two seats up for grabs for the East Valley School District, the Liberty School District and West Valley School District. Plus there will be a scattering of fire district commissioners and one Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District commissioner on the ballot.

For an off year election, the ballot is going to be pretty crowded in November. So sit down and buckle up. It should be a fun ride.

Memorial Day celebration in Fairfield

A simple metal cross marks Rudolph Norman's grave. He was buried at the five acre Fairfield Cemetery in 1920. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

I haven't heard of too many Memorial Day celebrations being planned, but Fairfield is having one that will both celebrate veterans and the small farming town's historic cemetery. The ceremony was originally planned to be held at the cemetery outside of town, but the dismal weather forecast has prompted organizers to move it to the Fairfield Community Center at 304 E. Main. The hour-long ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. Monday. Local veterans are encouraged to attend and be honored for their service. The ceremony will also feature the rededication of the historic cemetery gates that are 116 years old. You can read my story about the event and the history of the picturesque cemetery in Saturday's Valley Voice.

Something to brighten your day

Since it looks like we'll be trapped inside because of bad weather for a while, here is a little something bright and cheerful to improve your day. SR photographer J. Bart Rayniak took this photo of arrowleaf balsamroot along the Spokane River in Otis Orchards on May 14. Think of sun!

Be careful out there

The weather today is cold, wet, windy and miserable. But more than that, it's a bit dangerous out there. Not only are local rivers and lakes approaching flood stage, but there is some standing water in some areas that can surprise an unwary driver. This morning there was a large lake across the northbound lanes of Pines Road across from High Nooner. I saw a big truck hit it going fairly fast and huge curtains of water were thrown in the air higher than the truck. The Washington Department of Transportation is advising that there is water over the freeway near the Barker exit. And I just heard a report over the scanner about someone in the Airway Heights area who got electrocuted when working near a power line. Thankfully he doesn't appear to be very badly injured. I vote we all stay inside where it's warm and dry.

Today’s highlights

“I’m really involved with my music,” said Central Valley senior Corbin Croom. When he’s not making music with the CV drum line, he takes AP classes, has performed with the U.S. Army All-American Marching Band, attended Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and job shadows surgeons to prepare for his ultimate career in medicine. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

Welcome to our annual graduation edition of the Valley Voice. In it you can find every graduating senior in the greater Spokane Valley area. Counselors at every school also gave us the name of a notable student to interview and you will find their stories in today's Voice as well.

There are too many seniors profiled to include links for them all here, so I'll just pick a few to highlight. Let us introduce you to East Valley High School senior Hunter Bonawitz, who has cerebral palsy and can't speak. Meet University High School senior Spencer White, who overcame an angry and troubled childhood to win a full ride scholarship to Gonzaga University. Then there is Corbin Croom, the Central Valley High School senior so determined to become a surgeon that he's already observed a dozen surgeries.

The smaller schools also have exceptional graduates. RiverCity Leadership Academy senior Jake Kennedy found his inner voice and has turned it into effortless writing. Liberty High School senior Tyler Wilson is legally blind, but you would never know it if you watched him play on his school's basketball or football team. Northwest Christian senior Cole Ramey nearly lost his arm in an accident as a young boy, but has been playing basketball with full use of his arm.

If you would like to see the featured seniors from other Spokane Valley schools or other schools in Spokane County, check out the Voices web page here.

Breakfast is served

If there's a better way to start off a relaxing holiday weekend than with a yummy breakfast that helps local students, I'm not sure what that would be. On Saturday morning the Applebees restaurant at Pines and Mission will be serving up breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. to benefit choir students at East Valley High School. Tickets are $7 at the door. The only downside that I can think of is having to get out of bed at a reasonable hour instead of sleeping in. But certain sacrifices sometimes have to be made. 

Police at Spokane Valley Mall today (not yesterday)

Yesterday I posted about the police being at the Spokane Valley Mall to talk about electronic gadgets, but I lost track of what day it was. The event is actually today. Mea culpa.

So, to recap: a digital forensics expert from the Spokane County Sheriff's Office and a representative from Verizon Wireless will be at the Mall until 8 p.m. today to talk about phone safety and smart phone capabilities, including how parents can find and view files, applications and photographs that can be hidden on smart phones by their teens. This is part of the Take 25 campaign to encourage parents to take 25 mintues to talk to their children about safety.  

Coming Thursday

Thursday's Valley Voice will be a bit different this week. It's the section we do every year that we call the “grad tab,” which includes information on every graduating senior in the greater Spokane Valley area (including the Freeeman and Liberty School Districts). Included in the section will be the name of every graduating senior from every high school, plus the names and pictures of each school's valedictorian(s). In addition, reporters, correspondents and photographers have spent the last month or so traveling the county to interview one notable graduating senior from each school. Some of the stories are quite touching, so make sure you have a couple of tissues handy tomorrow morning.

And don't worry about missing anything that is usually included in the Thursday Valley Voice. Our regular features will be in Saturday's Valley Voice this week instead.

Another special East Valley board meeting

The East Valley School District board of directors have held several special meetings in the last two weeks to get input from parents and students on the closure of Mountain View Middle School next month. The board has announced another special meeting for Wednesday night to discuss the input they received. The meeting will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at East Valley Middle School, 4920 N. Progress. If you can't make it, reporter Lisa Lienberger plans to attend and will have a story in Saturday's Valley Voice.

Suspected drunk driver nearly takes out the Whimsical Pig

An SUV driven by a man police believe was drunk blew through the intersection of Mission and McDonald in the wee hours of the morning today while fleeing from police and was speeding toward the Whimsical Pig Apartments when it hit a truck and a large boulder. I drove through that intersection not long ago. The area is still taped off and work is being done, but you can clearly see the mangled fence. The driver had to be tasered when he refused to follow the instructions of police officers. Click here for more details.

Police talk electronics at Spokane Valley Mall

Today is the second day of the Take 25 campaign organized by local law enforcement agencies to encourage parents to take 25 minutes to talk to their children about safety. Today a digital forensics expert from the Spokane County Sheriff's Office and a representative from Verizon Wireless will be at the Spokane Valley Mall until 8 p.m. They will be available to talk about phone safety and smart phone capabilities, including how parents can find and view files, applications and photographs that can be hidden on smart phones by their teens. Since most parents (like me) tend to be ignorant of all the bells and whistles on all these newfangled electronic gadgets, heading down there will probably be an educational experience.  

Human rights and racism discussion at Millwood Presbyterian

In this photo from May 14, 2011, retired North Idaho College political science instructor and human rights advocate Tony Stewart speaks at a meeting where he explained how census data show minorities in Idaho have grown. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

Millwood Presbyterian Church will continue its speaker series on human rights with a talk by Coeur d'Alene resident Tony Stewart tonight at 7 p.m. in the church, located at 3223 N. Marguerite Road. He plans to speak on racism in the Northwest.

Stewart was a founding member of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations in 1981, when a local white supremacist group was going strong. He was awarded the National Education Association's 2010 H. Councill Trenholm Memorial Civil Rights Award and the 2008 Carl Maxey Racial Justice Award from the Spokane YMCA.

The first 125 people to arrive at 6 p.m. can have an authentic Mexican taco dinner provided by Taco Los Panchos and Taco Works, both businesses in Coeur d'Alene that have recently been the target of racist demonstrations. The suggested donation for the dinner is $6; admission to the talk is free.

Upside down kayak reported in river

Spokane Valley Fire Department crews are responding to a report of an upside down kayak in the Spokane River just west of Harvard Road. I'll report more details as I hear them.

10:46 a.m. update: Emergency responders are in place at Harvard, Barker and Flora by the river, others are searching the shores.

10:58 a.m. update: An orange kayak has been spotted just over a mile east of Harvard Road. Firefighters will check the river all the way to Stateline to check for a person.

11:07 update: Members of the swift water rescue team are entering the river at Murray Road to do a search on the water.

11:12 update: A Sheriff's Deputy has told firefighters that he talked to the kayak's owner yesterday, so it doesn't appear that anyone is in the river. It sounds like firefighters will try to recover the kayak so no one else calls it in to 911 as a boater in trouble.

The Slice has a blog

Spokesman-Review columnist Paul Turner has written his observations and musings in thousands of Today sections (even before it was called the Today section). Paul's fans will be happy to know that he has joined the ranks of the SR bloggers. Check out his new blog here and sit back and enjoy the ride. Let's move on.

Saturday’s highlights

Steve Munts takes notes as an evaluator suggests that in the event of a wildfire, flammable material such as paper inside the home should be moved away from doors and windows before occupants evacuate, to prevent its heating up and igniting inside the house. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

There was a lot to read in Saturday's Valley Voice, so all is forgiven if you didn't get a chance to read it all. The Spokane Valley Fire Department and Spokane County Fire District 8 have teamed up to hire a wildland fire inspector to help homeowners prepare their homes for wildfires. They are doing inspections of homes in forested areas to point out what measures people can take that may save their homes.

The Spokane Valley City Council again discussed street preservation and how to pay for it, but no conclusions were reached. They also discussed several other projects that have come up, including improving the Mission Aveneue trailhead in Greenacres, and what money might be available to pay for them. The council intends to discuss both issues in more depth at the day-long budget workshop scheduled for June 14.

In related news, planning commission chairman John Carroll has announced his intention to run for Dean Grafos' council seat this fall, setting up the first contested election so far. Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a story on a $250 prize available to North Pines Middle School students who follow a series of clues to find a blue piggy bank named Piggy H.

Two Spokane Valley churches, Good Shepherd Lutheran and Christ Lutheran, have voted to combine to form a new church named Advent Lutheran Church. The original plan was to combine three congregations into one, but the majority of the members of Holy Trinity Lutheran did not vote to approve the plan.

Coming on Saturday

The little piggy did not go to the market. It's somewhere in or around North Pines Middle School and students there are in the midst of collecting clues to find the pig, named Piggy H., so they can win $250. Reporter Lisa Leinberger was at the school this week and she'll have a fun story on Piggy H. in Saturday's Valley Voice.

Also coming tomorrow is a look at the discussion the Spokane Valley City Council had about road projects and street preservation, an unusual new church called Advent Lutheran Church and the work the Spokane Valley Fire Department and Spokane County Fire District 8 are doing to help homeowners protect their homes from wildfires. There will also be another campaign announcement, so make sure you pick up your paper tomorrow.

Valley students competing in underwater robotics competition

This sounds like a fun event to go and watch. Students from all over the Spokane area, including teams from North Pines Middle School and East Valley Middle School, will be at Eastern Washington University tomorrow to compete in the Inland Northwest SeaPerch underwater robot obstacle course competition. The SeaPerch program is sponsored by the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research.

The students were all given kits of pipe, motors, cables and circuit boards to use in building their submersible robots. The compeitition will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in the pool in EWU's Aquatics Building on its Cheney campus.

SE Spokane County Fair royalty named

The queen and her court have been selected for the Southeast Spokane County Fair in Rockford set for Sept. 23-25 this year. The coronation celebration was held this past Sunday. Taylar Franz of Freeman High School was crowned the Queen. Her princesses are Emily Sainsbury of Freeman High School and Mikayla Cornwall of Liberty High School. Congratulations, girls!

A spring blossom

Probably everyone can tell by now that I'm a sucker for a cute critter. The Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service shelter has another cute one up for adoption this week. Her name is Blossom and she's about two years old and is a Pointer mix. Shelter staff say she's a little shy, but she walks well on the leash and appears to get along well with both cats and dogs. She sounds like a keeper for someone looking for a fairly easygoing companion.

If you are interested in adopting Blossom, her identification number is 2044. The adoption fee for dogs is $82.04, which includes a vet check, license, microchip, vaccinations and either spaying or neutering. You can stop by to visit Blossom at 2421 N. Flora Road or call (509) 477-2532 for more information.

EV student arrested for bringing gun to school

Alert readers may have noticed an item in today's Liberty Lake crime blotter in the Valley Voice that references a hand gun turned in to the Liberty Lake Police Department this week. The man who turned it in said teenagers had been passing it around and he didn't want it to fall into the wrong hands. Today news comes from the Spokane Valley Police Department that an East Valley student has been arrested in connection to the gun. According to a police press release, the student brought the loaded gun last week to Harmony High, East Valley's alternative high school, and had been making threats against the father of a female friend.

The 14-year-old student has been arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm on school property, second degree unlawful possession of a firearm and felony harassment. Click here for more details.

Today’s highlights

Keith Arp levels a fence post at the newly constructed Veterans Memorial in front of Valley Fourth Memorial Church. When completed, the memorial will be available 24/7 for community members to pray and meditate for members of the military. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

I suggest on this lovely, bright and sunshine filled day that we first spend a little time checking out today's Valley Voice. The congregation of the Valley Fourth Memorial Church plan to dedicate a new veterans memorial on May 29, which of course is the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. It will honor all the local military members who have been killed in action since 9/11.

The Spokane Valley City Councl picked Positive Change architect Chuck Hafner to fill the vacant seat in their ranks, a move that probably doesn't surprise anyone. The Farm Fresh Fruit stand on Argonne just south of Sprague has been having problems with complaints and a feud with a neighbor factors into that.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger was in attendance at the Liberty Lake City Council meeting this week when the council members discussed whether or not to continue having prayer at the beginning of each meeting. And for those of you who followed the exploits of Chicken, Spokane Valley's most famous bird, correspondent Stefanie Pettit has an update on the popular fowl.

Coming Thursday

We've got a bunch of good stuff coming your way again for the Thursday Valley Voice. The Spokane Valley City Council voted to appoint a new council member to replace Bob McCaslin. The Liberty Lake City Council had an interesting discussion on beginning each meeting with a prayer. The owner of the Farm Fresh Fruit stand on Argonne just south of Sprague has been having frequent visits from the code enforcement officers lately and the owner is placing a lot of the blame on a neighboring property owner. A new veteran's memorial will be unveiled soon at Valley Fourth Memorial Church.

Those are the highlights, so be sure to grab your copy of the Valley Voice tomorrow. Or you can always check back here for some links.

Accident at University and Maxwell

An accident at University and Maxwell is blocking traffic. Emergency crews are arriving and report that a residential gas line has been severed. Detours are being set up.

31 years later

SR archive photo (May 1980)/J. Bart Rayniak

Today is the 31st Anniversay of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, so to mark the day I dug out a picture of the event taken by SR Valley Voice photographer J. Bart Rayniak. This has always been one of my favorite photos and it hangs on a wall in a hallway in the downtown SR newsroom. We also have on our web site a great “then and now” slideshow by SR photographer Christopher Anderson.

New council member to be selected tonight

The Spokane Valley City Council will select a new council member to join them on the dias tonight during the council meeting at 6 p.m. in City Hall. The new council member, either IT professional Ben Wick or Positive Change organizer Chuck Hafner, will be immediately sworn in.

There are a few other interesting discussions on tonight's agenda. The council will also vote on whether to allow 60 days for a developer's agreement to be negotiated with St. John Vianney Catholic Church, which is seeking to rezone a piece of property. The issue has become heated at times.

The council will also discuss a proposed drainage project on Broadway and other proposed capital projects - including railroad quiet zones at the Union Pacific crossings on Vista and Park Roads.

Moose on the loose

Spokesman-Review (and Valley Voice)  photographer J. Bart Rayniak didn't have to wander far this weekend to take a great photo of a napping moose. He only had to go as far as his back yard in Otis Orchards. I'll let Bart tell it himself.

“This female moose wandered into Spokesman-Review photographer J. Bart Rayniak's yard in Otis Orchards, Saturday morning, May 14, 2011, and made herself comfortable for the day, resting in the shade and foraging on flowering cherry blossoms and bushes. According to Washington Fish and Wildlife officer Paul Mosman, although quite docile, moose are unpredictable, so it's best to put your dogs inside, and keep your distance until they wander away, which this young lady did at dusk.”

While I'm sure the moose was nice to watch (from a distance), I kind of feel sorry for Bart's dog. She probably had to stay inside all day.

“Raging” house fire

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Spokane Valley Fire Department assistant fire marshal Bill Clifford describes yesterday's house fire at Welleley and Moore as “raging.” When firefighters arrived there were smoke and flames coming out the front door, the living room window and the back of the house. The sounds of the crackling flames alerted one of the occupants, who also got his brother and newphew out of the burning home, Clifford said. The only smoke detector in the home was on the lower level and the fire started on the main floor. The two adults suffered from smoke inhalation and received minor burns.

The cause of the fire hasn't yet been determined. Damage to the house is estimated to be at least $200,000. The photos above are courtesy of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.

Home damaged by fire

Here's a look at the house at Wellesley and Moore in Spokane Valley that was damaged by fire this morning. Two adults and a child who were in the home at the time were able to escape with minor burns. More information will be forthcoming once the fire investigator has completed his work. The photo is courtesy of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.  

Saturday’s highlights

Ramon Alvarado Estrada and Frank Quates of Pointwest Landscape in Coeur d’Alene plant Ponderosa pines at the Spokane River access next to the Barker Bridge on May 12. The city of Spokane Valley regraded the site, and the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club provided $3,500 for improvements that included planting native trees, plants and shrubs. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

It was a good thing we had a few days of nice weather last week before the rain moved back in. It gave the City of Spokane Valley and the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club just enough time to make improvements to the Spokane River access next to the Barker Bridge. They had been waiting for good weather so soil didn't get washed into the river during the project. The city graded the slope and moved some bollards down closer to the water, while the group of river users planted grass, trees and other native vegetation.

That was just one of the stories in Saturday's Valley Voice that you may have missed. Reporter Lisa Leinberger also listened in on one of the meetings between parents and East Valley school board members about upcoming changes and how to make it easier for students. Lisa also has background information on Joanne Comer, who has been selected as the new principal of Liberty Lake Elementary School.

Meanwhile, the Spokane Valley Fire Department took advantage of the good weather to hold trench rescue training for firefighters. Of course, the training probably would have continued no matter what the weather, but doing it in the rain would have been miserable.

Monday morning hiccups

There are a few traffic issues lurking out there on this chilly and damp Monday morning. A semi has reportedly lost its trailer on East Montgomery near where it crosses the railroad tracks east of Argonne. It is blocking at least part of the roadway, so a detour may be in order.

Also, it looks like Spokane Valley Fire Department crews are still on the scene of a house fire at Wellesley and Moore near East Valley High School. The fire was reported about an hour ago and it sounds like traffic is being routed around the area.

Coming on Saturday

We've got some great stories (and photos) coming your way for Saturday. The Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club teamed up with the City of Spokane Valley this week to make improvements to the river access by the Barker Bridge. Reporter Lisa Leinberger attend one of the East Valley School District special meetings to discuss the closure of Mountain View Middle School and she'll have a report on that. She'll also have information on who was selected to be the new Liberty Lake Elementary School principal. Finally, I'll have a look at some training the Spokane Valley Fire Department did last week on trench rescues. Just stay out of deep holes in the ground and we'll be good.

East Valley board to meet with students Monday

“It's kind of heartbreaking for me,” said Jim Stookey, who's been teaching at the school since 1985 . He drove all three of his son's with him to Mountain View Middle School when they attended there. “I have a lot of fond memories of the people.” SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

The East Valley School District board of directors hosted three special meetings this week to talk to community members and parents about the closure of Mountain View Middle School, which will happen at the end of the school year. On Monday the board will hold two more special meetings, this time to meet with students at both middle schools and discuss their concerns about the process of merging together into one school.

The first meeting is from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Monday at East Valley Middle School, 4920 N. Progress. The second is at Mountain View Middle School, 6011 N. Chase, from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

I'm sure many students are worried and upset about the changes, so hopefully these meetings will help ease their minds.

Rockford fair royalty to be crowned

Eight high school girls are vying for the crown for the annual Southeast Spokane County Fair in Rockford that is set for Sept. 23-25 this year. The coronation will take place Sunday at 6 p.m. at the McIntosh Grange at First and Lake in Rockford. Those attending can also get dessert for $5.

The girls are: Maylissa Lewis, Liberty High School; Taylar Franz, Freeman High School, Leaira Anderson, Freeman; Ashley Roecks, Liberty; Bianca Thiers, Liberty; Kailyn Gady, Freeman; Emily Sainsbury, Freeman; and Mikayla Cornwall, Liberty.

So head out to the Grange Sunday and support the girls in their efforts.

East Valley High School student arrested

Yesterday the Spokane Valley Police Department arrested an 18-year-old East Valley High School student for allegedly selling drugs in the school parking lot. The student also had a bottle of vodka in his car. He was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, a felony, and being a minor in possession of alcohol. Click here for more details.

Food strikes back

I've got more information on the two fires in Spokane Valley yesterday and it's almost enough to make you never want to cook again. The first one in the 12000 block of East 25th was reported in the morning. According to the Spokane Valley Fire Department, the homeowners said they placed pop tarts in the toaster, left the kitchen briefly and when they came back the toaster was on fire. The kitchen was heavily damaged - to the tune of $60,000.

The second fire in the 7000 block of East Second was caused when a woman left a pan on the stove, which caught fire. The woman was sleeping, but was woken up by the smoke. That one could have ended badly, as the woman's smoke detectors were not functioning.

While never cooking again isn't terribly realistic, at the very least people should stick around the kitchen while cooking. You never know when something as simple as heating up a pop tart can go wrong.

Another house fire

Spokane Valley Fire Department crews are responding to the second reported house fire of the day, this one in the 7000 block of East Second. The first crews on the scene reported finding a house full of smoke. The neighbors who called in the fire told dispatchers they didn't think anyone was home.

A canine companion

The staff at the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service shelter describe Cody as a “fun-loving, affectionate canine companion,” but in his picture he looks almost regal. Or maybe it's just me. Cody is this week's featured pet looking for a new  home. The shepherd mix gets along well with cats and dogs and knows how to sit.

If you are interested in adopting Cody, his identification number is 1809. The adoption fee for dogs is $82.04, which includes a vet check, license, microchip, vaccinations and either spaying or neutering. You can stop by to visit Cody at 2421 N. Flora Road or call (509) 477-2532 for more information.

Today’s highlights

Teacher Bob McCaslin and his CV Kindergarten Center class show the hats they can wear during school recess, provided to them by doctors and staff from Advanced Dermatology, who came to the school May 3 to teach skin and sun safety. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

There's a whole bunch going on in today's Valley Voice, so sit back and get your mouse clicking finger warmed up. While many school districts are trying to deal with expected budget cuts, the Central Valley School District has announced it does not plan to lay any teachers off this year and will instead not replace people who are leaving the district. Reporter Lisa Leinberger has that story.

I have a report from this week's Spokane Valley City Council meeting, where council members selected a new planning commissioner and interviewed two council candidates. The Liberty Lake Police Department is reporting an increased crime rate for 2010, but the rate is still the lowest in Spokane County based on population. The Department is also moving forward on replacing two officers who recently resigned.

If you are looking for something to do this weekend Lisa has information on the annual Heritage Fair hosted by the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum. The Liberty Lake Farmers Market and the Millwood Farmers Market are also setting up their tents for the season.

Kitchen fire on 25th

Spokane Valley Fire Department crews are responding to a reported kitchen fire in the 12000 block of East 25th. The homeowners have evacuated safely. The first crew on the scene is reporting that the fire may have spread into the eaves.

8 a.m. update: crews are already reporting that the fire is knocked down. That's fast work.

Last East Valley special meetings today

The East Valley School District board of directors will hold the last two special meetings today to discuss upcoming changes to the district, including the closure of Mountain View Middle School and moving Skyview Elementary students. While the decisions are not up for debate, the district is seeking input from parents and the community on how to best handle the transition. A meeting held Monday apparently drew a fairly good crowd of about 100 people.

The first of today's meetings is from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Administration Center, 12325 E. Grace. If you go to this one, arrive early to make sure you get a seat. The board room isn't all that big. The second meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Trent Elementary Audiorium, however, will accommodate a large crowd. The school is located at 3303 N. Pines Road.

Mission trailhead closed today for road work

Access to the trailhead where Mission Avenue dead ends at the Centennial Trail in Greenacres will be temporarily shut down today. As part of the Indiana Avenue extension project, crews are grinding down the paved portion of Mission and resurfacing it. Today crews will grade the unpaved portion of Mission and then spread the gravel-sized pieces of asphalt on the surface. It's a nice bit of recycling that will improve the dirt portion of Mission without too much efffort. As anyone who has driven that stretch lately can tell you, it was sorely in need of a good grading at the very least. And as an added bonus, the work is expected to widen the turn around where the street ends at the trail.

Spokane Valley legislators push bill on unmarked patrol cars

Republican legislators Matt Shea and Larry Crouse have brought forward a bill in the State Legislature to make it illegal for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office to park unmarked patrol cars on private property. This has been something pushed for by the family of Wayne Scott Creach, who was shot last August after a confrontation with a uniformed sheriff's deputy in an unmarked car. Reporter Tom Clouse has more details here.

Meet the principal candidates tonight at Broadway Elementary

Broadway Elementary School principal Eileen Utecht is retiring after a 23 year career in the Central Valley School District. Tonight the district will bring the top candidates to replace her to the school for a community forum. Each candidate will speak about their qualifications and parents and community members can ask them questions. Those attending the forum can fill out written comment cards that will be considered during the selection process. So if you would like a look at who may be the next principal, head to the school at 11016 E. Broadway tonight from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Vista Road to close Tuesday at Trent

Here's a tidbit to help you plan your driving routes tomorrow. Vista Road will be closed just south of Trent beginning 7 a.m. Tuesday, May 10, 2011, and will stay closed through Wednesday afternoon. Railroad crossing work in the area will force the shutdown in traffic. Detours will be available via Knox Avenue and Argonne Road, but your best bet is probably to avoid the area.

East Valley special meeting tonight

The East Valley School District board of directors will host a special meeting tonight to discuss upcoming changes in the district, including closing Mountain View Middle School and moving Skyview Elementary students. The closure decisions have been made, but the district is seeking input from parents and community members on how to make the changes as painless as possible. Tonight's meeting will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at Mountain View, 6011 N. Chase.   

If you can't make it tonight, additional meetings are set for 1 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Administration Center, 12325 E. Grace, and 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Trent Elementary, 3303 N. Pines.

Saturday’s highlights

Principal Tammy Fuller reflects on 32 years of achievements displayed in the Mountain View Middle School trophy case. She hopes to find a place for the trophies and awards and is planning events to mark the last days of the school. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

There's a must-read story in Saturday's Valley Voice that needs to be looked at today if you didn't manage to get to it on Saturday. Reporter Lisa Leinberger has an excellent story on Mountain View Middle School, which will be closed at the end of this school year as the East Valley School District struggles with state funding cuts and the loss of a recent bond. She talked to students, teachers and parents who are in mourning for their school. Some of the students are second generation attendees and some of the teachers were once students at the school themselves. It's a real community school, something you don't find a lot in today's more transient society.

Meanwhile, there was also a bunch of news coming out of City Hall last week. There are six candidates for the vacant Spokane Valley Planning Commission seat, one of whom has had a rocky relationship with city staff and once made a comment during a council meeting that could be considered threatening. I also took a look at the two candidates who will be interviewed for the vacant City Council seat during tomorrow's council meeting. Chuck Hafner is the favorite to get it, thanks to his long involvement in the community and his strong ties to the Positive Change council members.

The city's Community Development Director, Kathy McClung, has announced that she will retire at the end of July. That annoucement got an immediate strong reaction from councilman Bill Gothmann, who said he believes some council members have been hostile to city staff and that has caused the departure of more than a half dozen key staffers.

Rounding out Saturday's package were details on the new trash pickup days and an update on Millwood's efforts to save the city's wading pool. A special meeting is set for today at 5 p.m. for the council to vote on an ordinance to allow citizens to raise money to repair the pool.

Coming on Saturday

This week reporter Lisa Leinberger headed out to Mountain View Middle School to see how everyone there is reacting to the news that the school will be closed at the end of the school year. Her story on that will be in Saturday's Valley Voice, along with a trio of stories out of the Spokane Valley City Hall. I'll have a look at the planning commission candidates, a story on the two candidates for the open city council seat and a story on another city staffer who is leaving.

We'll also have a short story on new trash pickup days for Waste Management customers in Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, Otis Orchards and Millwood. The new days start the week of May 16.

Traffic lights out south of I-90 on Argonne, Mullan

There's been a lot of chatter on the scanner in the last few minutes about traffic lights being out on Argonne and Mullan south of I-90. It looks lke the lights at the Argonne freeway on and off ramps are also out. I can't tell if there's a backup on the freeway or not because the DOT cameras are also out. Everyone be careful out there.

1:22 p.m. update: The DOT traffic cameras are back up, but I'm not sure about the stop lights. It doesn't look like traffic is backed up on the freeway, though.

Free yard waste disposal for Ponderosa, Painted Hills

Residents in the Ponderosa and Painted Hills neighborhoods who are served by the Spokane Valley Fire Department or Spokane County Fire District 8 can drop off yard waste for free disposal Saturday. The two organizations are sponsoring the event so people can get rid of debris that would become a fire hazard later in the year. So roll up your sleeves and clean that yard so you can drop everything off at Haase Landscape, 12202 E. Thorpe Drive, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Items that will not be accepted include trash, root balls, stumps, lumber or branches thicker than three inches in diameter.  

East Valley’s mock crash

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East Valley High School staged a mock crash on Tuesday. Students played the roles of the crash victims in a performance staged by the school's Washington Drug Free Youth club to show the dangers of drinking and driving. Representatives from the Spokane Valley Fire Department, the Spokane Valley Police Department and MedStar participated in the event. The Fire Department has provided some photos of the mock crash.

Mission blocked between Argonne and Mullan

Spokane Valley Fire Department crews have just been sent to a car accident on Mission between Argonne Road and Mullan Road. It sounds like it will take a while to clear the scene because extrication crews are being requested. Avoid the area if you can.

Free fire wood available to Fairfield residents

The town of Fairfield recently had several trees removed from Hart Park. The wood will be given away on a “true need basis.” Those interested in getting some of the fire wood must be Fairfield residents and must be able to haul it away themselves. A limited amount is available. There is a sign up sheet in City Hall and the decision on who will receive the wood will be made at closing time Friday.

Today’s highlights

Freeman Schools Superintendent Randy Russell introduces himself to night custodian James Marratt during a visit to the high school last Thursday. He takes the helm of the district on July 1. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

The clouds are back this morning, but at least we got some sun yesterday. No sun, of course, means you have the perfect excuse to stay inside and check out today's Valley Voice. Even though the weather isn't the greatest, work has begun on the Indiana Avenue extension project in Greenacres. The intersection of Flora and Mission won't be shut down to build a new roundabout until about the second week of June and that portion of construction should only take about five weeks.

Randy Russell hasn't started work as the new Freeman superintedent yet, but he's stopped by to introduce himself. Reporter Lisa Leinberger talked to him about his years as a principal in Spokane and Coeur d'Alene. The Spokane Valley City Council discussed road projects on the city's six year construction plan on Tuesday. Nothing was decided, but it sounds like the council wants to consider doing less new construction and more street preservation.

Taking a look to the south, Spokane County Fire District 8 recently received a grant that will pay to completely outfit the district with new breathing apparatus equipment. The grant is worth more than $300,000.

Coming Thursday

We've been managing to keep busy this week and you'll be able to read our efforts in Thursday's Valley Voice. Construction has started on the Indiana Avenue extension project and I'll have details on what areas will be closed down and when. Reporter Lisa Leinberger has talked to Randy Russell, the new superintendent for the Freeman School District.

Also, Spokane County Fire District 8, which is south of Spokane Valley, recently got a federal grant to replace some aging equipment. The Spokane Valley City Council had a relatively light meeting this week, but did discuss paying to maintain current streets versus building new ones.

Expect traffic delays at Sprague and Sullivan

A portion of the intersection at Sprague and Sullivan is shut down, which created long traffic delays yesterday. There was a gas leak under the intersection over the winter and Avista make quick repairs at the time. The utility company is now making permanent repairs to the concrete. The concrete has been poured and city engineers are now waiting for the concrete to cure before reopening the closed lanes. The intersection could be back to normal by this afternoon or may need another day to cure. Lab tests will be done today to check. So for right now, avoid the area if you can.

Arrest made in Spokane Valley cold case

Spokane County Sheriff's deputies have arrested a man for the 1992 murder of Spokane Valley furniture store owner Brian Cole, who was killed during a robbery. Patrick K. Gibson, a registered sex offender living in Stanwood, Wash., was tied to the crime through newly tested DNA evidence. Reporter Meghann Cuniff has more details here.

New law applies to cattle trucks using Spokane Valley roads

Yesterday Governor Chris Gregoire signed a new law that will require cattle trucks in Spokane and Pend Oreille counties that are more than 40,000 pounds gross weight to stop at a port of entry. Neighbors living along Barker and Harvard Roads complained to the Spokane Valley City Council last year that the cattle trucks were using State Highway 290 to bypass the port of entry and its inspections and then using those roads to connect back to I-90. The council worked with local legislators to get a law passed. Olympia reporter Jim Camden has more details here.

West Valley student arrested for assault

A special education student at West Valley High School was arrested for assault this morning when she attempted to attack another student with a pair of scissors. She and a teacher both received cuts on their hands when the teacher intervened and tried to take away the scissors. Click here for more details.

Meet the principal candidates tonight in Liberty Lake

Liberty Lake Elementary School principal Linda Uphus is retiring after a 35 year career in education and the Central Valley School District is looking for a replacement. Tonight the community is invited to a “Meet the Principal Candidates” forum from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the school, located at 23606 E. Boone. The top two or three candidates to replace Uphus will be there to talk about themselves and take questions from parents and residents. Those attending will be asked to turn in written feedback on their impressions of the candidates, which the district will take into consideration when deciding who to appoint to the position. So head out to the school, shake a few hands, listen and ask questions.

Mock crash underway at East Valley High School

We've gotten a call or two this morning from people concerned about the closed streets and emergency vehicle activity at East Valley High School. Not to worry, the school is just hosting a mock crash demonstration to help illustrate the dangers of drinking and driving. I hope to  have pictures from the Spokane Valley Fire Department to post later.

East Valley to close middle school, lay off teachers

After a special meeting last Friday to declare a fiscal emergency, the East Valley School board decided to lay off up to 25 teachers, close Mountain View Middle School next year and send the Skyview Elementary students to Otis Orchards Elementary. Reporter Lisa Leinberger has an overview of the coming changes and a schedule of upcoming community meetings for discussions on how to implement all the changes. Read her story here and watch for a more in depth story later in the week.  

Special meeting tonight on new Newman Lake fire station

Fire District 13 in Newman Lake will have a special commissioner's meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at Station 1, 10236 N. West Newman Lake Drive. The lengthy agenda is packed with discussion items having to do with the new station the district is planning to build.

Commissioners will talk about the estimated cost of the project and the construction schedule and get input from the community. The station architect will also be in attendance.

Saturday’s highlights

Eldon Jon of AC Starr Farms finishes spreading a load of cow manure donated by neighbor Carol Bear on the East Valley Schools Farm on April 25. The field is between East Valley High School and East Valley Middle School off Sullivan Road on Wellesley Avenue. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

Saturday's Valley Voice included news from nearly every corner of the Spokane Valley area. Reporter Lisa Leinberger worte about improvements to the East Valley garden at Wellesley and Sullivan, which will include beds for community members who want to grow their own vegetables. She also has a story about the East Valley school board's discussions on what happens now after the bond vote failed and state budget cuts are on the horizon.

The small Liberty Lake Police Department is down by two officers after they unexpectedly resigned for personal reasons. The department's detective and sergeant are taking patrol shifts to try and fill the gap until replacements can be hired.

Correspondent Valerie Putnam has a report on a special Millwood City Council meeting last week. The council heard and approved a plan by a group of residents to raise $10,000 to save the wading pool in Millwood City Park. The pool will not open until the money is raised. It would pay to resurface and repair the pool. Donations can be made at the Bank of America in Millwood.

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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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