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Edgecliff losing grant funds

Edgecliff Weed and Seed site coordinator Gail Kogle, center, and Becky Boyington, right, tackle financial paperwork in the Edgecliff SCOPE office  Sept. 5.
 (Holly Pickett / The Spokesman-Review)
Edgecliff Weed and Seed site coordinator Gail Kogle, center, and Becky Boyington, right, tackle financial paperwork in the Edgecliff SCOPE office Sept. 5. (Holly Pickett / The Spokesman-Review)

Edgecliff residents know you can build a strong community out of garbage, that is, if you have enough money.

Today, the far southwest Spokane Valley neighborhood kicks off its annual two-day neighborhood cleanup. If the event is anything like it’s been in years past, trucks and trailers heaped with trash will line up at Pratt Elementary School waiting to unload into massive garbage bins.

For the last several years those bins have been paid for with a federal Weed and Seed grant. The grant serves as a hefty financial helping hand to communities struggling with crime and drugs. Its name refers to its dual purpose, to weed crime from neighborhoods while planting the seeds for community building programs like this weekend’s cleanup. Over the last five years, Weed and Seed has infused more than $250,000 into Edgecliff paying for everything from after-school programs and computer study labs to events like the cleanup, which every year hauls more than 100 tons of garbage out the neighborhood.

However the grant ends this month and from here on out it will be up to Edgecliff to continue the Weed and Seed programs. That task will be challenging, said Gail Kogle, the program’s director.

A partnership has been struck between Edgecliff and the city’s largest nonprofit provider of social services, Spokane Valley Partners. Spokane Valley Partners is asking the city of Spokane Valley to contribute $20,000 to maintaining a community center for Weed and Seed programs. Pratt Elementary School has been the center for those programs most recently, but Spokane School District shuttered the building recently as a cost saving measure. If Weed and Seed programs stay at the building, the community will have to pay rent.

“I’m really hopeful that Spokane Valley Partners will succeed,” Kogle said.

An answer from the City Council is expected Tuesday. The amount requested is four times as much as Spokane Valley spent on social programs this year.

“A city is there to provide services that citizens by themselves couldn’t. Basically transportation and those types of things,” said Diana Wilhite, Spokane Valley mayor. “Cities aren’t social service agencies, but what we are trying to do is give money to programs that are helping our citizens.”

The City Council is aware of Edgecliff’s successes, Wilhite said, which makes her think there are votes on the Council to support Edgecliff’s request. The mayor will be in Edgecliff at 9 a.m. today to kick off the annual cleanup.

By all accounts the Weed and Seed grant has transformed Edgecliff from a community that less than 10 years ago led the region in most crime categories to a neighborhood that no longer ranks No. 1 in any.

“It’s been a phenomenal success,” said Rick VanLeuven, Spokane Valley’s police chief. “We’ve been able to take their area and address the community concerns about crime, drugs and gangs.”

VanLeuven worked Edgecliff as a deputy and later a detective sergeant. He credits community assistance jump started by Weed and Seed for the capture of several career criminals in the neighborhood, criminals that didn’t just target Edgecliff.

The Edgecliff Sheriff’s Community Oriented Policing Effort, or SCOPE, has become a model for volunteer-based crime prevention. The neighborhood’s former Weed and Seed director, Rick Scott, now oversees SCOPE countywide.

Edgecliff is still Scott’s neighborhood. He’s still engaged in community talks about keeping the Weed and Seed programs afloat beyond September’s end. Edgecliff volunteers at a Weed and Seed convention only recently learned that a small amount of money might be available for second generation Weed and Seed programs, which is what Edgecliff’s operation is once funding stops.

Auto Row is within the Weed and Seed area, and there could be a potential donor among the businesses there. No one has checked to see if Auto Row might be onboard with supporting Weed and Seed.

“We’ll find a way,” Scott said.