Judging by the attendance at last week’s Liberty Lake candidates forum, there’s a fair amount of interest in the upcoming City Council and sewer district board elections in November. The Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event drew a bigger crowd than the regular council meetings.
Audience members submitted written questions that were answered by each candidate. Moderator Chuck Stocker, a retired school superintendent, kept the event flowing smoothly with frequent jokes thrown in. Most of the verbal jousting was between Odin Langford and Josh Beckett, who are running for different positions on the council.
Langford, the incumbent, is being challenged by Jason Adelmann for Position 4. Cristella Kaminskas and Beckett are running by Position 2, which is being vacated by Neal Olander. Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District Commissioner Frank Boyle is being challenged by Darlene McHenry. Liberty Lake council candidate Ryan Romney, who is running unopposed, was unable to attend the forum.
The candidates were asked about requiring impact fees on new construction to benefit the Central Valley School District. Schools that serve Liberty Lake are currently filled to overflowing. Almost all the candidates thought the fees should at least be on the table. “It’s definitely something that has to be considered,” said Kaminskas. “I don’t have the answers. I don’t think any of us do.”
Beckett said that the fees should “absolutely” be charged. He recalled his disappointment at learning his daughter would be unable to attend Liberty Lake Elementary as a kindergartner because of crowding. “I live 100 yards from the school and yet my daughter was being bused to Barker Center,” he said.
Langford pointed out that school crowding is a school district issue. “It’s not a city problem,” he said. “It’s not up to us to build more schools.”
Cities, however, must approve the levying of school impact fees within their boundaries.
While the city is discussing a development plan for the River District area north of Interstate 90 that asks for residential units in an area zoned freeway commercial, a resident asked about possibly putting residential units south of the freeway near Ashley Furniture. “It’s something that could be looked into,” said Adelmann. “It’s not something that I think would work.”
Candidates were asked whether they favored small “pocket parks” or larger community parks in the River District, which has been a hot button issue. “I think we can do both,” said Kaminskas. “It’s not a choice of either or. The problem is we need to make the decision now and plan for it now.”
Both Langford and Adelmann said they favored a mix of small and large parks. Beckett went even further and said he thought the River District should have a large multipurpose complex and called a public swimming pool “essential.” He’s also not in favor of the suggestion that the city buy land from the River District developer to make a proposed park larger.
The two sewer district candidates got their fair share of questions. One person wanted to know whether the new phosphorus discharge regulations would make rates go up. Boyle said the district has been planning for the new regulations for years and has been setting aside money. A new treatment plant was built a few years ago and rates have only gone up a dollar in the last two years. “We have a plan,” he said. “It’s a six-year plan. It’s the smart thing to do.”
Both were asked about their strongest traits. “I’ve been very personable,” said McHenry. “I respect the public’s opinion. My strongest trait is that I enjoy being in public service.”
Boyle said his strengths are his willingness to accept and foster change. “My whole life has been public service, from being a paper boy to being a mailman.”
During her closing statement McHenry detailed her service on numerous state and local boards. She said her knowledge and influence would be an asset and that she’d like to work with the school district to develop curriculum on water stewardship and quality.
“Frank (Boyle) said he loves changes,” she said. “So do I.”
“I love some changes,” Boyle responded. Boyle pointed out that if McHenry had been attending sewer district meetings she would know that the district already has a program with the school district to teach kids about water and the marsh at Liberty Lake County Park.