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Sprague ballot plan gets mixed reception

The proposal to add one-way Sprague Avenue to the November ballot got mixed reviews at Tuesday’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting, with most council members for it and two members of the public saying it seemed designed to fail at the polls.

The current proposed ballot language calls for a $6.4 million bond to pay to switch Sprague and Appleway to two-way between University and Argonne. That includes $1.6 million for the road conversion, $1.8 million for repaving and stormwater upgrades and another $3 million for landscaping. It would cost homeowners between $6.70 and $8 per year for a $100,000 home depending on what interest rate the city can get.

Resident Howard Herman said few people know what the $6.4 million is paying for. “If you start telling people it’s $3 million for landscaping, it’s a deal killer,” he said. Herman said he believes the real issue is the location of Spokane Valley Fire Department Station 1 on the one-way section. The department’s inability to go east from the station without circling around adds a minute and 20 seconds to their response times, Herman said.

“The public is uninformed about the cost and the public safety issue,” he said. “There’s something wrong with this picture. Something is driving you to get this matter to the ballot. I don’t know what that is. It gives the impression the council wants this to fail.”

Businessman Dick Behm said he favors switching Sprague back to two-way but would campaign against the ballot measure. The city should have used a grant for $4.2 million that was originally awarded to extend Appleway but could have been used for other purposes if the city had shown purpose and need, he said. “We have the need, but nobody knows what our purpose is,” he said.

Behm questioned why stormwater work was being included in the bond when the city would do it anyway and has the money to pay for it. Right now the plan is “so expensive it has been designed to fail,” he said. “You’re rushing this through. If we’re gonna do it, let’s do it right, because that’s what you’re up there to do.”

Councilman Bill Gothmann was the only council member to vote against advancing the ordinance containing the ballot language to a second reading. He called the plan a “total boondoggle” and said putting it on the ballot would only “shove $25,000 down a rat hole.” “It’s prompted by politics rather than planning,” he said.

Gothmann said it is a large road project, yet it is not in the city’s six-year Transportation Improvement Plan. Other large road projects have been done without putting them to a public vote, he said. He questioned why the city paid for improvements to Sprague on the east end of town but seems unwilling to do so on the west end of town. “I’m going to call a spade a spade,” he said.

The $3 million landscaping plan, which a consultant called the “Cadillac” version, would include a separate mixed use path on Appleway, Gothmann said, but it wouldn’t lead anywhere or connect to anything. “It’s a multi-use path to nowhere,” he said. “I don’t think that’s fine.”

Like Behm, Gothmann said he favors converting the roads to two-way but is not in favor of the ballot issue. “It is, to me, misleading,” he said. “Only 25 percent of this ballot measure is for street conversion. We have not explained that $6.4 million cost to the public.”

Councilman Dean Grafos said the landscaping plan with the conversion is what was included in the Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan, which had no funding attached to it. “I just think it’s time the citizens of the city have a say,” he said.

The issue has divided the city for years, said Mayor Tom Towey. “We’re asking the people for money to change that road,” he said. “I do believe it’s the people’s decision. They’re the ones who are going to have to pay for it.”

Councilman Chuck Hafner said he would like more details on the cost before the council’s special meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday to vote on whether to put the issue on the ballot. “I think there are a lot of questions between now and then,” he said.

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