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Fire department seeks stimulus money

Thu., July 9, 2009

Council questions need for helmet ordinance

The Airway Heights Fire Department was given a go-ahead by the City Council on Monday to apply for a federal stimulus grant to pay for a new station.

Fire Chief John Schoen said if the city receives a grant, the new station would replace the fire department on land at the department’s current location and just south of the station, at a cost of about $120,000 for demolition, $1.5 million for the new building and $100,000 for a parking lot.

The council also extended a contract with the West Central Community Center to provide Women Infant Children services until May 2011.

During its May 4 meeting, the council discussed lowering yearly payments to the center from $8,000 to $6,000, but the vote was put off due to concerns about a reduction in services. On Monday, councilmember Larry Haskell said, “If we don’t provide for programs like WIC, then what are we really providing?”

The council heard the first reading of an ordinance that would, among other things, require protective head gear for operators of motorized transportation devices under the age of 16 within city limits.

Councilmember Charlotte Lawrence said she wanted to further examine the ordinance wording to make sure there were no gray areas. “I just want it to be clear that the intent of this is to make the public safer, not to be Gestapo-ish with our requirements,” she said.

State law requires helmets for motorcycle operators, but if the vehicle travels less than 30 mph and has an engine size of less than 50cc, it is considered a moped and the issue of requiring helmets is left to local jurisdictions.

Mayor Matthew Pederson said he’d opposed similar ordinances in the past because most of the issues were already addressed in the wording of traffic laws. As far as helmet laws are concerned, Pederson said it should be up to the individual and that parents have the duty to decide for their children. “I don’t believe it’s the position of the city or any other governance to decide that,” he said.

Residents will be able to comment on the ordinance during the council’s July 20 meeting.

In other news, Pederson told the council that the Spokane Transit board of directors approved a proposal to expand bus services to areas of the West Plains in September. Pederson, a transit board member, said route frequency to Airway Heights will increase and the city will for the first time have bus service in neighborhoods north of U.S. Highway 2. Routes south of the highway will remain in place.

Police Chief Lee Bennett said he expects his department will move into a building at 1307 S. Ziegler St. after the remodeling work on the building is finished in August.

The council bought the 4,800-square-foot building in early April to house the department’s 13 officers and administrative assistant, who currently share a 1,200-square- foot building and portable unit on Sunset Highway.

During public comment, Airway Heights resident Sandy Holland asked the council to consider limiting Fourth of July fireworks to city parks. “It sounded like we were living in World War III, right on the front lines,” she said.

Schoen later said no injuries or fires were caused by fireworks this year.


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