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County Sings A New Tune On Symphony Commissioners Vote To Restore $17,000 Gift

The band will play on.

In a reversal of an earlier decision, Spokane County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to give the Spokane Symphony $17,000 from a pot of money reserved for promoting tourism.

In other action Tuesday, commissioners set an April 8 public hearing for a proposal to bring back door-to-door sales of pet licenses.

On March 4, Commissioners Kate McCaslin and Phil Harris voted against giving money to the symphony, with Commissioner John Roskelley dissenting.

Symphony supporters responded with letters decrying the decision as short-sighted, especially since McCaslin suggested using the money to promote golf courses or the fairgrounds.

“Some travelers make their choices based solely on the artistic venues of an area,” John Sparks of the Washington, D.C.,-based American Symphony Orchestra League wrote in a letter to commissioners.

Knowing that “a city the size of Spokane” even has a symphony could draw people who may also play golf or visit the fairgrounds, Sparks wrote.

The threatened loss of the money from the hotel room tax was a hard blow to the symphony. The private, nonprofit organization is near the end of its fiscal year and has little opportunity to make up $17,000.

Ticket sales for “The Nutcracker” and other holiday performances were $55,000 less than expected because of severe weather. The audience was sparse for a March 7 benefit concert to help make up the money.

McCaslin said she didn’t realize until recently that the county had promised the symphony money before she took office in January. She warned that the symphony will have to prove the county got a good return on its investment if it wants money again next year.

On the issue of pet licenses, McCaslin said she “reluctantly” supports a proposal to sell licenses door to door. The other commissioners did not comment on the proposal, since it will be the subject of the upcoming public hearing.

The county ended door-to-door sales in 1995 due to complaints that commissioned salespeople were too aggressive.

Animal control director Nancy Sattin wants to bring back the practice because license sales slumped badly last year. She estimates that far more dogs and cats in Spokane are unlicensed - and illegal - than are licensed.

Sattin said it would cost about $50,000 to hire two full-time animal control officers, who would not earn commission. She predicted they would sell enough licenses to cover the expense.

, DataTimes