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Valley mayor assesses the city as ‘very good’

Spokane Valley Mayor Rich Munson didn’t shy away from the city’s controversies Wednesday evening when he pronounced the state of the city “very good.”

The first topic he covered in his annual assessment of the city’s condition was its need for Spokane County to build a new $170 million sewage treatment plant in time to prevent a construction moratorium based on lack of treatment capacity.

Munson addressed about 60 people, mostly public officials, at the city’s CenterPlace Regional Event Center – which he said has been “a tremendous success.”

Despite projections of a $300,000-a-year operating loss, the shortfall was slightly less than $100,000 in 2007 and had dropped almost to $20,000 last year, he said.

Another success, Munson said, is that the city’s 89 full-time and 22 part-time employees represent the lowest ratio of employees to citizens in the state.

“It means we’re lean and mean,” Munson said. “It also means we won’t be laying off any of our staff. They’ve got plenty to do.”

Although the city has had several disagreements with county commissioners over contracts for services and other issues, Munson said “all the stakeholders are working very hard” to obtain a permit for a new county sewage plant to discharge treated effluent into the Spokane River.

“The problem is that not everybody agrees with us,” he said.

Munson said he fears environmental groups will file a lawsuit to block a discharge permit. But he hoped the critics would be persuaded by efforts to show them how important the permit is to the city, which relies on Spokane County’s limited allocation of capacity at the Spokane municipal treatment plant.

Referring to a story in Wednesday’s Spokesman-Review, Munson acknowledged city and county are disputing hundreds of thousands of dollars under a contract in which the Sheriff’s Office provides police service in Spokane Valley.

The city believes the county charged $609,000 too much in 2006, and the county says the city will owe the county $1.6 million by the end of the year if it continues to withhold a portion of the money it owes.

“We will mediate it and we will settle it, hopefully before the end of the year,” Munson promised.

He got a round of applause when he credited the city’s crime-fighting efforts with moving Spokane Valley from No. 131 to No. 87 in a list of the safest cities in the nation.

As for county commissioners’ decision in December to cancel the county’s contract to plow city streets next winter, Munson said city officials have requested a one-year extension to allow more time to find an alternative.

One way or another, he said, city streets will be plowed.

“Pray God we don’t have another winter like this one,” he added.

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