Voices


Council OKs design contract

THURSDAY, MARCH 26, 2009

City manager can spend up to $50,000

The Spokane Valley City Council voted Tuesday to proceed with a $377,000 architectural contract for a new city hall over the objections of members Gary Schimmels and Rose Dempsey.

“I think we’re buying a pig in a poke,” Dempsey said, even though the council specified that only $50,000 may be spent without further council approval.

Although council members had called for a $50,000 limit two weeks earlier, Councilmen Steve Taylor and Bill Gothmann presented a motion to authorize the full $377,000 worth of schematic design work.

Mayor Rich Munson got no support at first for an amendment to limit expenditures to $50,000 “until such time as we completed the purchase of the land.”

But City Attorney Mike Connelly insisted on clarification: “Do you want, once you purchase the land or enter into a purchase-and-sale agreement, to be required to fulfill the rest of this contract? Do you want it to be contingent on a bond vote? We need to define when Phase 2 would kick in and whether it’s something that’s optional on our part.”

Taylor opposed placing conditions in the contract, but Councilman Dick Denenny wanted to know “what kind of an obligation we are entering into.”

“You’re voting to approve a contract that’s not even in your materials,” Connelly told Denenny. “… I can’t answer those questions without seeing the contract.”

Public Works Director Neil Kersten said the “scope of work” document before the council contained the essential details of the proposed contract, but Connelly said that wasn’t adequate.

“You can authorize the city manager to finalize the contract, but you can’t approve something that’s not in front of you,” Connelly said. “That doesn’t work.”

Taylor and Gothmann changed their motion to authorize the city manager to “finalize and execute” the $377,000 contract, but Connelly still wanted instructions on how to phase in the work.

Munson suggested a clause requiring the council to decide when to spend more than $50,000.

“It’s going to be a political football again, and it’s going to stall the process when we need to move forward,” Taylor objected.

He wanted to leave the decision to the city staff, but Connelly objected.

“I really don’t think the staff’s comfy with that discretion,” Connelly said.

Munson said it was “essential” for the council to make the decision.

“We have to pay attention to what’s being said in the public, and that’s what they want us to do,” he said.

Denenny and Councilwoman Diana Wilhite offered an amendment requiring council approval to spend more than $50,000, and it passed with Dempsey and Schimmels dissenting.

Despite the restriction, Schimmels said he couldn’t support a contract for more than $50,000.

In other business, the council had an inconclusive discussion on whether and how to phase implementation of the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan. The discussion revealed pessimism about acquiring a county-owned right of way for extending Appleway Boulevard, and questions about adopting a zoning code that assumes the extension will occur.

The council also called for efforts to find private contractors to plow the city’s streets next winter. Members considered that the only option they could implement in time to replace the snow-removal contract Spokane County intends to cancel in November.

Also, the council voted 6-1 against Dempsey to proceed to final action April 7 on a proposal to ease development restrictions that were put in place to protect the Felts Field airport. Property owners spoke in favor of the proposal while representatives of the airport and the state Aviation Division called for a compromise that would preserve existing restrictions in the area north of Utah Street.

Schimmels and Denenny had reservations about relaxing the regulations and Gothmann opposed it, but they let the measure advance when the council called for staff review of the proposed compromise.

John Craig may be contacted at johnc@spokesman.com.


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