April 8, 2010 in Washington Voices

Snow plow plan progresses

Former Waste Management site being considered for housing plows
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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A partial Spokane Valley City Council agreed to move forward with several moves to firm up their new snow plowing program, but members appeared split on whether the city should buy the former Waste Management site the city is currently leasing to house the plows. Council members Bill Gothmann and Bob McCaslin were absent.

Spokane County abruptly canceled its plowing contract with the city last year. The city bought six used plows from the Washington Department of Transportation and hired a local company to run the plows and also provide graders. During its winter retreat the council agreed to continue with the current arrangement with the city adding more equipment, hiring a mechanic and purchasing the Waste Management Facility across the street from City Hall. The site is currently for sale, and the city has a month-to-month lease.

The site includes a building with an office, break room and storage that is in good condition, said public works director Neil Kersten. The shop building would need a little work. “The siding has lots of holes in it,” he said. “I’d say about 50 percent of the insulation has fallen off. It’s not a huge effort bringing that up to standard.”

Councilman Gary Schimmels said he agrees with the proposals. “The purchase of that building is very important,” he said.

Councilman Dean Grafos pointed out that there is another former Waste Management facility nearby with an office building on it. “We should look at that before we jump into this,” he said. “I think there are a lot of other properties around.”

It might be cheaper to buy land and build a new facility, said Councilwoman Brenda Grassel. She advocated hiring a real estate agent to look for other available properties in order to show taxpayers that “we looked at all the options.”

Councilwoman Rose Dempsey expressed concern about losing the opportunity to buy the property. “This practically fell into our lap in a time of desperate need,” she said. “I’m afraid if we turn up our noses at this we’ll be left with nothing.”

Kersten said the site has worked well for the city. “One of the big factors for this site is it is right in the middle of the city,” he said. “It’s just extremely efficient to operate in the center of the city.”

The snow plow plan also includes hiring a full-time mechanic/operator, purchasing a new plow/sand truck and purchasing a loader/backhoe to load deicer in the winter and do storm water work in the summer. The city’s plowing contract currently includes a mechanic, so the city will simply cut that out of the contract and use the money to hire its own employee who can work on storm water projects in the summer, Kersten said.

The $200,000 plow would be purchased using money in this year’s plowing budget that has not been spent because of the lack of snow this winter. The city currently rents a loader and can use that money plus leftover snow plowing money to pay the $90,000 price tag for a new loader/backhoe.

Kersten said the appraised value of the Waste Management site is $530,000 and the city could pay for it with a combination of money from the street fund and the storm water fund since both departments would use the location. “There is an adequate balance in those funds,” he said.

In the end the council agreed to have Kersten move forward with everything he proposed, but he will work with a real estate agent in looking for other sites at the same time he works with Waste Management to purchase the city’s current site. “I think we have a little time,” he said.

In other business, the council also heard reports on the Spokane Valley Arts Council, collaborative planning with Spokane County and the Commute Trip Reduction program.

Schimmels also reminded his fellow council members to keep the city clerk apprised of all public events they plan to attend so the clerk can send out a public meeting notice if four or more council members decide to go to the same event. “It keeps us out of trouble and helps staff,” he said.


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