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Sprague-Appleway revitalization gets slight delay

Thu., Sept. 17, 2009

Publishing snag pushes implemenation to Oct. 15

Implementation of the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan will be postponed two weeks, until Oct. 15, because of delays in publishing an easy-to-read copy of the plan.

In other business Tuesday, the Spokane Valley City Council unanimously called for final action next week on an ordinance to reduce false burglar alarms by requiring licenses and hiring a company to handle enforcement.

An informal decision to delay the Sprague-Appleway plan was made after the council unanimously approved ordinances to move a portion of the plan from the city’s development code to its comprehensive land-use plan.

Sprague-Appleway plan critic Susan Scott objected that a Sept. 4 public notice referred to a copy of the plan that was supposed to be on file, but no final copy of the plan was available on Monday when she checked.

“I had no idea how complicated it was going to be to convert this document to a form that we could be put on our Web site,” Community Development Director Kathy McClung said.

She said a final copy was ready Tuesday, but technicians were having trouble posting it on the city Web site.

Sprague-Appleway plan manager Scott Kuhta said copies of the plan have been available at City Hall, but not in finished format that seamlessly incorporates all the changes the City Council made during weeks of deliberation.

Councilman Bill Gothmann thought the ugly-but-accurate document “works just fine,” but Councilman Gary Schimmels thought the plan shouldn’t be implemented until “everything is ready.”

“If we can have it more readily available to the public, I would want to be overly cautious about having it available to the public,” Councilwoman Diana Wilhite said.

Councilwoman Rose Dempsey suggested a delay of “a month or so,” but the council settled on Mayor Rich Munson’s suggestion of Oct. 15.

Dempsey, Schimmels, Wilhite and Munson supported the delay, which will require formal action next week. Councilman Ian Robertson was absent.

Final action also is planned next week on a major overhaul of the city’s alarm-system and the award of a contract to the CryWolf division of Public Safety Corp. of Waldorf, Md. CryWolf began administering Spokane’s alarm-system program in 2006, and says within two years it reduced false alarms almost 67 percent, from 6,800 to 2,250.

The proposed ordinance wouldn’t apply to fire alarms, which are to be addressed later in separate legislation.

Tuesday’s decision to advance the burglar-alarm ordinance to a second reading was unanimous.

Police Chief Rick Van Leuven said measures are needed to reduce the number of false alarms that waste officers’ time and jeopardize public safety. He said registration of alarm systems is a key element because it would tell officers where alarms are located in large buildings and give them up-to-date contact information.

Building owners would be required to provide phone numbers of people who can verify an alarm or secure a building after a break-in. Van Leuven recalled a case in which computer equipment was stolen from an office with broken window when an urgent call forced officers to leave before they could locate a representative of the business.

Registration would cost $25 a year for residences and $35 for businesses, and would generate an estimated $30,000 a year.

Schools, which contributed 101 of last year’s 1,055 false alarms, also would have to register but wouldn’t have to pay the fee.

Nor would schools have to pay a fine for their first false alarm in calendar year. The fine for a second false alarm could be waived if a designated school official completes a CryWolf online “false alarm awareness class.”

Fines – dubbed “cost recovery” – would be a flat $85 per violation for residences and $165 for other buildings – the same as in Spokane.

Van Leuven said Spokane Valley’s current fines start lower for first offenses, but are higher than the proposed fines after subsequent violations. Court costs now add greatly to the total, but generate no money for the city, he said.

The proposed ordinance would eliminate courts from the process.

Under the current system, the city collected $14,816 in fines last year. If the proposed ordinance had been in place, the city would have received about $152,555 – even after CryWolf took its 25 percent, $38,138 share, Van Leuven said.

CryWolf would be granted a special police commission to issue citations. Building owners would have to agree to pay the fines in order to register their alarm systems.

Appeals would be decided by an “alarm appeals officer” appointed by Van Leuven. Appellants would get two chances to convince the appeals officer an alarm was valid, but would have no further recourse.

Building owners with more than three false alarms in a calendar year would have their registrations canceled for the remainder of the year or for 90 days, whichever is greater. However, one cancellation could be waived if the alarm user completes CryWolf’s false-alarm class.

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