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In brief: Suspended officer’s jury trial delayed

Tue., May 6, 2008

The jury trial of suspended Spokane Police Department detective Jay P. Mehring on felony harassment charges, scheduled to start this week, has been delayed.

The reason is the unavailability of Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, said Chris Bugbee, Mehring’s attorney. Bugbee had subpoenaed Kirkpatrick for the trial.

Bugbee said he’ll seek to dismiss the case on Aug. 1. The trial has been rescheduled for Sept. 8.

Mehring is charged with felony harassment for allegedly threatening to burn down his estranged wife’s Colbert-area home last year during a divorce. The drug detective has been on unpaid layoff status since March 30, 2007, the day he was arrested. He posted bond shortly after his arrest and was released.

The Class C felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

– Karen Dorn Steele

Council votes to add street department jobs

Facing both crumbling roads and a crumbling 2009 budget forecast, the Spokane City Council on Monday moved toward fixing the streets.

The council voted 5-2 to fill three new positions in the street department at a total cost of $119,000 for the rest of 2008. The new jobs were in this year’s budget, but council members debated if that decision should be changed given softening tax revenues.

At a council meeting last week, Mayor Mary Verner argued that it’s still early in the year and sales tax revenues could recover. In a worst-case scenario, the city could use a reserve fund created to prevent layoffs when the economy slows, she said.

“Spending on materials and equipment won’t do any good if we don’t have the employees to get the work done,” Verner said.

The city is projecting more than a $2 million shortfall between planned expenses in 2009 and expected revenue.

Councilman Al French said there’s an economic advantage to hiring the employees soon.

“Bottom line is our streets still need repair,” French said last week. “Every time we defer it, it just gets more expensive.”

Council members Nancy McLaughlin and Michael Allen voted against the hiring.

“We have enormous uncertainty right now,” Allen said after Monday’s meeting. “Let’s make sure we’re not adding to the problem (in case) we don’t have a recovery.”

– Jonathan Brunt


Lightning Creek cleanup begins

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a $254,705 cleanup project on Lightning Creek last week in an effort to prevent future flooding.

The creek near the Bonner County town of Clark Fork flooded in late 2006, causing millions of dollars in damage to backcountry roads.

The flood also uprooted trees that ended up in Lightning Creek, narrowing its channel.

Residents feared the trees would wash down the creek this spring, plugging openings under Highway 200 and a railroad bridge.

The pileup could destroy the bridges and lead to flooding in Clark Fork.

Gov. Butch Otter asked the corps for technical help.

In April, the corps sent a team to assess the situation and recently decided to pay for debris removal.

– Becky Kramer


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