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County buys ex-Stockyards for $3.54 million

Fri., June 4, 2004

Spokane County is one step closer to siting a proposed sewage treatment plant at the former Stockyards in East Central Spokane.

The county has purchased 20 acres at Freya and Trent for $3.54 million.

Some East Central neighborhood residents said Thursday that they hope the Stockyards purchase signals a move away from another proposed plant site in their neighborhood – the former Playfair race track.

“It’s really more suitable. It’s farther from residential areas,” East Central Neighborhood Council Chairman Jerry Numbers said of the Stockyards site.

Numbers added that locating the plant at Playfair could rule out more positive development there, like a sports complex.

The city of Spokane, which may be a partner in building a new treatment plant, purchased Playfair in April. Mayor Jim West has said that portions of the site not used for treating sewage could be developed into sports fields and possibly a replacement for Joe Albi Stadium.

“Playfair offers the greatest opportunity for Spokane to do something good on 62 acres that could benefit the entire community,” Numbers said.

But Spokane County officials said they won’t rule out Playfair until environmental studies of both sites are completed.

“The decision on which site will be the preferred site will be made hopefully in July,” said Spokane County Utilities Director Bruce Rawls.

Community preference will play a part in that decision, Rawls added.

It’s already been a factor in the decision to purchase the Stockyards property, said Spokane County Commissioner Phil Harris

“My consideration did have something to do with the fact that we’re trying to put the plant in an area that wouldn’t affect a residential neighborhood,” Harris said.

Though both of the proposed sites are in the East Central neighborhood, the Stockyards is in a more industrial area while Playfair, located north of Sprague Avenue between Napa and Freya, is closer to homes.

“You have to be realistic and say, ‘Does a waste treatment plant in a neighborhood devalue the property in the neighborhood?’ My country boy wisdom says yes,” Harris said.

The county bought the Stockyards now to make sure someone else didn’t buy it first, Harris said.

“We just could not take a chance on losing that site,” he said.

Rawls said part of the reason Playfair is even being considered is because of the advantages it has for the city of Spokane.

The Playfair property is more conveniently situated to treat the city’s combined sewer and stormwater overflow, he explained, adding that Spokane has yet to formally agree to buy into a new regional treatment plant.

“If the city decided tomorrow not to participate, we’d move forward at the Stockyards someday,” Rawls said.

Someday – not tomorrow, because the county is currently wrestling with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over future discharges into the Spokane River.

The EPA is working on setting dissolved oxygen limits in the river, and future discharges could be prohibited because of environmental damage to the river.

Some current dischargers include the city of Spokane and Inland Empire Paper Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Cowles Publishing Co., which owns The Spokesman-Review.

The proposed sewage treatment plant would be able to handle 10 million gallons of sewage a day and would cost about $100 million to build. Plans call for later doubling its size.

Spokane Valley is negotiating with the county for sewage treatment capacity at the facility.

Without a new facility, Spokane County will reach its treatment capacity at the city of Spokane’s plant by 2009.

But East Central’s Al Bibbins said he’d prefer that no plant be built in his neighborhood – at the Stockyards or Playfair.

“I think it needs to be moved to an outlying place,” Bibbins said.

But Numbers said he could get behind a smaller plant that only treats liquid waste, not solids.

“We’re still pushing the county that we don’t want a full treatment plant in the neighborhood,” he said.

But if one has to be built there, the Stockyards land is better, Numbers added. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed.”


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