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County says ‘no thanks’ to emergency declaration

One day after Spokane Valley Mayor Rich Munson declared an emergency in his city because of the winter conditions, Spokane County commissioners declined to do the same.

In an emergency meeting on Tuesday, County Commissioner Todd Mielke said that with arterials clear and traffic moving, declaring an emergency would send the wrong message two days before Christmas – especially with businesses hurting from lost commerce caused by the past week’s snowfall.

In a press release on Monday, Munson said he declared the emergency in hopes of attracting state or federal money to help pay for the response.

But commissioners pointed to state law that emergencies should be declared only if life or property is at risk or if a government needs help to relieve “a stricken community.” The “threshold is not whether we want to put us into position of recouping funds,” said Commissioner Mark Richard.

“Although we are stretched, we don’t seem to be in an emergency situation,” Richard said.

Commissioner Bonnie Mager added: “We don’t want to cry wolf.”

Still, commissioners said they will consider the issue again on Wednesday and may be more likely to make a declaration later this week. County Engineer Bob Brueggeman said the county expects 5 to 7 inches on Wednesday and Thursday. More worrying is a weekend storm that could bring 15 inches or more.