January 14, 2010 in Washington Voices

Council moving quickly

Several items added to upcoming agenda
By The Spokesman-Review
 

On TV

This week’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting can be seen on Comcast Channel 14 at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

Public comment

Highlights from Tuesday’s council meeting

Margaret Mortz – Chastised the city council for adding the removal of City Manager Dave Mercier to the agenda at the last minute at the Jan. 5 meeting and not giving the community advance notice. She called for mandatory rules of conduct in the future. “This was done with a flawed process not compatible with open communication. This type of process leaves the door open for abuse.”

Mary Pollard – Concerned with the designs of some neighborhoods that puts swales right up to the edge of the street, forcing those getting out of the passenger sides of cars to step down into a hole. “We’ve created all these pits to fall into. It’s really kind of dangerous.”

The new Spokane Valley City Council appears eager to put its stamp on the city and in the process take another look at some of the major decisions the previous council made in 2009.

Council member Dean Grafos announced that he wanted several items to be added to the agenda in coming weeks. In addition to finding out the procedure to replace the city manager he asked staff to research the procedure for allowing absent council members to vote by telephone, updating the Sprague Appleway Revitalization Plan to restore the zoning previously in effect and options for changing the 2.9 percent property tax increase recently approved.

Grafos also said he wanted to table negotiations to acquire property at University City for a new city hall and to set up a joint meeting with the Spokane County Commissioners to discuss the Sheriff’s Office contract and acquiring right of way land to extend Appleway.

The council reviewed two ordinances that were considered “housekeeping” items, making small changes to fix errors or clarify language. One dealt with the new false alarm ordinance that charges homeowners and businesses for false alarms.

Council member Bob McCaslin brought up a complaint he heard from a resident about the $25 annual registration fee, which drops to $15 a year if there are no false alarms. “We’re charging people who haven’t had a false alarm,” he said. “We’re kind of prejudging people.”

Police Chief Rick Van Leuven said it was necessary to charge the registration fee in order to fund the program, which is contracted out to a company called Public Safety Corp. The annual process is also a way of ensuring that police and the alarm company have current contact information on file about the home or business owner. As it is now, police sometimes respond to a valid alarm but have to search through Rolodexes and papers in order to find out who to contact to report the incident, Van Leuven said. “This registration is extremely important for us and the alarm companies,” he said.

Council member Bill Gothmann said the registration fee was set up to recover administrative expenses in the same way the planning department charges planning fees to cover its costs. “It’s the same philosophy,” he said.

McCaslin said he still was concerned about the fee. “I think the council should take a look at this,” he said.

City attorney Mike Connelly said that the city has entered into a contract with a third party to run the program, which may limit the council’s options to change it. He said he would research the issue and present additional information at a future council meeting.

As part of the discussion several of the council members indicated they wanted to look at the city’s entire fee schedule to see whether they thought any fees should be changed.

Mayor Tom Towey also presented a motion to name council members to seats on local boards such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Health District. Towey and Brenda Grassel serve on five boards and committees each. Towey appointed himself, Grafos and Gary Schimmels to the city’s finance committee.

Bill Gothmann and Schimmels will each serve on four boards and committees and Grafos and Rose Dempsey are each assigned to three. McCaslin was not assigned to any community organizations.

“He did not ask for any,” said Towey of McCaslin after the council meeting. “I’ll respect that.”

Towey said he asked each council member for a list of committees they were interested in serving on. “Sometimes I had four or five of them that wanted it,” he said.

The council meeting scheduled for Jan. 26 has been canceled to allow council members to attend a legislative conference in Olympia.

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