July 9, 2009 in Washington Voices

Spokane Valley Council makes plans to fill opening

Three have applied for position, deadline is July 17
By The Spokesman-Review

It’s decided. In the event of two tie votes, the next Spokane Valley council member will be selected by a coin toss.

Current council members spent time Tuesday night ironing out every detail of the council member selection process. They will vote on the procedure at the next council meeting.

The council’s empty seat was created by the resignation of Steve Taylor. Applications to replace him will be accepted through July 17. So far the city has received three applications.

Council member Dick Denenny suggested that if fewer than five people apply, the city can eliminate a planned July 21 executive session to evaluate the applicants and decide which to interview. “If we do that, we can boost all of this up one week,” he said.

Council member Rose Dempsey questioned the limit of five and suggested raising it to seven. The other council members agreed to raise the limit. “It’s just a number,” said Mayor Rich Munson. “We can’t assume there will be no more applications.”

What questions will be asked of the candidates was also discussed. Council members will each submit several questions they want answered.

“I want to know if each applicant has actually read the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan, actually read it,” Munson said.

The council also decided to give the candidates the list of questions in advance. “Our council has always had a policy of no surprises,” said council member Bill Gothmann. “I say we start with that.”

Since there are six members left on the council, there is some concern that the vote to select a new council member could end in a tie.

If no candidate receives a majority vote on the first vote, the top vote getters will advance to the next round until only two candidates remain.

The council will vote twice, if needed, and if there is a tie vote both times then a coin toss will decide the matter.

Alphabetical order will determine who is assigned heads and tails. City manager Dave Mercier will do the coin toss.

“Or we could toss Mr. Mercier,” joked Munson.

If there are more than seven candidates, an executive session to review applications will begin at 5 p.m. July 21, followed by an open session at 6 to vote on which candidates to interview.

Applicants will be interviewed in open session at 6 p.m. on July 28. An executive session to discuss the interviews will be at 5 p.m. on Aug. 4, followed by a vote in open session at 6.

The applicant selected to finish out Taylor’s term will be sworn in immediately.

If fewer than seven submit applications for the open seat, all meetings will be moved up one week with interviews on July 21.

In other business, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich spoke to the council about progress on plans to build a new jail. The construction would require a bond that may appear on a ballot as soon as this year, he said.

A new jail is necessary because the county will lose its lease on Geiger Corrections Center in 2013. The current jail is often overcrowded and has to turn criminals away because there aren’t enough beds. Criminals know that and it takes away the “hammer” of jail time to punish lawbreakers.

“Catch and release may work well with fish, but it doesn’t work for criminals,” Knezovich said.

Knezovich said he is researching building and staffing costs for jail options in an effort to get the bond cost down below the original estimate of $245 million. The building options include a six story tower just to the north of the current jail or a one-story building that could be located on land on Medical Lake Road near Interstate 90.

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