The Charter On Fire Districts, Libraries, Animal Control
Here are some questions and answers regarding the city-county consolidation proposal facing voters Nov. 7:
Question: What would happen to the fire districts?
Answer: The charter leaves the districts independent, but creates a commission of fire officials and others to consider whether some services, or some entire districts, should be merged.
Fire districts can’t be dissolved or merged without a vote of their residents.
Q: How would consolidation affect the Liberty Lake sewer and water districts?
A: The charter would not change utility districts. As with fire districts, they couldn’t be changed without a vote of their residents.
Q: I live in the Valley and must pay to use city libraries. Would that change under consolidation?
A: Until recently, the city and county library systems operated virtually as one.
In January, city libraries began charging nonresidents as much as $100 a year, depending on the services desired. In April, the Spokane County Library District imposed a $55 annual fee for adult city residents.
The charter creates a commission to study unification of the library systems. The commission must submit a unification plan to the council within two years.
The charter does not provide details for merging the two systems. Most likely, county residents would have to upgrade the district’s computers and make other improvements before the systems could merge.
In September, county residents rejected a bond issue to pay for improvements.
Q: Who would take over animal control? Will there be a change in the way determinations are made on dangerous dogs?
A: The city pays SpokAnimal CARE, a private nonprofit organization, to provide the service under a five-year contract that expires in March 1997. The county has its own animal control department for unincorporated areas.
Under consolidation, the city-county council would decide whether to expand the county animal control department to cover all areas or renew SpokAnimal’s contract. The charter does not address the matter.
Dangerous dog hearings are held when a dog bites and the owner doesn’t agree to have it put to sleep. In the city, they’re handled by Gail Mackie, SpokAnimal’s executive director. In the county, they’re conducted by one of the three county commissioners.
The council would decide how the hearings are handled.
Q: We live in Greenacres and don’t have - or want - garbage service. Will it become mandatory under consolidation?
A:. Garbage collection is another issue left unaddressed by the charter.
The city has its own trash collection department, which residents must use. Private companies handle trash collection in the county, and the service is optional.
It’s unclear whether the city-county could expand its service into areas outside the current city limits or outside urban service boundaries. If the council decided to expand the service, the issue likely would be settled in court, in the Legislature or in the state Utilities and Transportation Commission.
If the expansion were ruled legal, state law would require the city-county to give the private haulers who would lose business five years’ notice before making the change.
The county’s largest private garbage hauler doesn’t appear worried about any potential threat. Valley Garbage Service donated $2,000 to the pro-consolidation campaign.
Owner Dewey Strauss would not discuss the company’s motivation for making the contribution.