October 1, 2009 in Washington Voices

Spokane County – hear our shouts

Billie Martin
 

Though I usually use this column to keep you informed about upcoming events and activities or business news in the Elk-Chattaroy area, today I am going to recap some happenings of the last year that have affected our northern area.

I occasionally like to remind Spokane County officials and media (radio and television, not The Spokesman-Review) that there are a lot of us out here, and Elk-Chattaroy covers a lot of territory. There are about 4,000 households in our two ZIP codes, and that correlates to a lot of voters. The Elk-Chattaroy communities cover over 100 square miles of northeast Spokane County, and another 20 square miles of Elk is in Pend Oreille County.

And yet, we are rarely mentioned on the air waves unless something bad happens, such as accidents or crimes. (And then, they usually get the location misnamed). The weather out here in the foothills of Mount Spokane along the Idaho border is quite different than in Deer Park or even Newport (which are the nearest areas covered). We get frosts, freezes, heavy rains, high winds, etc., here when nearby areas don’t, and it would be nice to have some warning.

One big event that happened this year that deeply affected Elk-Chattaroy and our northern neighbors was the television broadcast change-over to digital. Have you heard the announcements on TV about how the change to digital is now complete and there may be some areas, mostly to the north, that have problems with their signals due to hills or trees? Are you kidding me? All of Elk-Chattaroy is in hills and trees! Most people out here get one station clearly and one or two others with a lot of “freezing.” So, many folks have resorted to satellite services. There is no cable out here, except along the highway.

Staying with electronics, let’s not forget Internet service; It’s mostly s-l-o-w dial up out here, unless you can afford satellite Internet. We have heard rumors that “high speed” is going to be available, but for now that is not official.

A lot of new power lines were installed around our area this summer. The odd thing is, we have had more power outages this summer than ever before. Hopefully, that is temporary due to the changes.

Another odd thing was seeing all of the trucks from an Oregon company doing the power line work. Wouldn’t you think they would use local companies with all of the employment woes people are experiencing?

Well, I can’t forget my favorite soap box subject for our rural area, the ROADS! We have lived in Elk for 11 years, but most of our friends and neighbors out here have lived here much longer. We have heard a lot of stories that go back 25 or 30 years about how bad the roads have always been. And the only “maintenance” that has been done on our dirt roads over those years has been snowplowing enough to get the school buses through and grading three or four times a year. That leaves the roads in their washboard condition with lots of potholes about 90 percent of the time.

We all love our beautiful summer and fall weather, but with that comes the horrible dust. The Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency worries so much about pollution from our wood-burning stoves, and yet the pollution and health danger from the dust has to be many times worse for us. Still, the county claims it costs $9,174 per mile per year to “maintain” our dirt roads. What maintenance? And where does that money go? It sure doesn’t go to our roads out here. Can you imagine how much has been “claimed” for our maintenance over the last 25 or 30 years? All of our roads should be paved. Maybe some state or federal officials should look into this facet of Spokane County.

If any of my Elk-Chattaroy neighbors have something to add or some local happenings you would like me to mention, please e-mail me. There are some great, safe Halloween happenings coming up this month, so I will get to those next time.

Reach Billie Martin by e-mail at elkites@peoplepc.com.

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