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Airway Heights OKs taxes for raceway

70 acres will become sports park

Airway Heights will help develop Spokane County Raceway Park under a tentative agreement city and county officials hammered out Wednesday.

The deal calls for Airway Heights to contribute half its new admission tax to a fund for projects that benefit the raceway. A city-county committee is to review and approve expenditures.

The tax is expected to produce $60,000 to $80,000 a year.

City representatives and county commissioners also worked out terms of an exchange that will give Airway Heights a 70-acre undeveloped portion of the raceway grounds for a regional sports park.

City officials want to build baseball, soccer or other sports fields that would complement the raceway and the county’s nearby off-road vehicle park.

Details are to be worked out by City Manager Albert Tripp and county Parks Director Doug Chase, but elected officials established a framework in an hour and a half of negotiations.

The session had a bumpy start.

Commissioners tried to hold the city to what they saw as an open-ended commitment to support the raceway with admission tax money. City officials insisted they needed to show constituents a clear benefit from the tax.

“What’s the takeaway for the city?” City Councilman Matthew Pederson asked.

Commissioners Todd Mielke and Mark Richard objected that, when Pederson was mayor in 2008, the city encouraged their $4.3 million purchase of the defunct speedway for economic development.

“This is a significant financial investment, and it didn’t come without opposition,” Richard said. “We’ve got a lot of eyes, a lot of pressure on this project.”

Commissioner Bonnie Mager, who voted against the raceway purchase, offered the breakthrough proposal of a jointly administered fund to support specific projects.

Mayor Patrick Rushing wanted to use the city’s contribution at first to finish paying for the sports park land. But commissioners agreed to take payment in purple pipe: Tripp asked the county to consider irrigating the raceway park with treated wastewater from the sewage treatment plant that the city is building. Commissioners liked the idea of free water well enough to trade land for the special purple pipe needed to deliver the highly treated effluent.

The land swap had called for the county to provide $962,500 worth of land and $81,731 worth of planning services for the city sports complex.

In exchange, the city was to provide $904,953 worth of six-inch pipe to bring domestic water and sewer service to the speedway. That left a $139,278 balance the city now will cover with purple pipe.

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