The city of Spokane Valley is discussing putting a $6.4 million bond on the November ballot to pay for the conversion of Sprague and Appleway to two-way between Argonne and University roads. A city engineer, however, says Spokane Valley has access to $4.2 million in grant money that could be used for the same project.
The $6.4 million bond includes $1.6 million for the road conversion, $1.8 million for repaving and stormwater work and $3 million for extensive landscaping and a trail.
The money dates back to 2000 when Spokane County got a grant for $4.2 million from the state Transportation Improvement Board to extend Appleway east of University. When Spokane Valley incorporated in 2003 it inherited the grant. The grant was withdrawn in 2006.
“There is a time limit TIB places on their money,” said Spokane Valley senior engineer Steve Worley. “We were not able to move the project forward in the time frame they wanted.”
But at the time the director of the Spokane Regional Transportation Council, which also distributes grant money for road projects, promised to replace the money. “The way that (Director) Glenn Miles explained it to me was the SRTC board approved the use of future federal funds in the Valley corridor,” Worley said.
Worley said he asked specifically if the $4.2 million could be used to convert the couplet back to two-way. “(Miles) said ‘You can use it for any project in the corridor provided the SRTC board approves it,’ ” according to Worley.
The SRTC does not have any federal money for grants right now but could have money to distribute as soon as this winter, Worley said. All Spokane Valley would have to do is ask for it.
Jeff Selle, manager of government affairs at the SRTC, confirmed that his organization offered to help the city when it lost the original grant. “Our board indicated they would be willing to backfill that $4.2 million,” he said. “There was just a promise left on the table.”
Spokane Valley Councilman Dean Grafos has been pushing the hardest to get the Sprague issue on the ballot and said that while he was unaware the $4.2 million could be available, it didn’t change his outlook. “I still think that the ballot measure is important,” he said.
Grafos said it wasn’t good enough to know that the SRTC might have federal funds available later in the year. “That’s different than having it now,” he said. “No, I still think it needs to go to the public.”
He also said he was not in favor of removing the bond from the ballot and just asking people to vote on whether to convert the road or not. “I want it on the ballot with a bond,” he said. “This issue of the money is secondary to what the citizens want in this city.”
Additionally, the city may have to repay $300,000 to the federal government in connection with the original $4.2 million grant given to Spokane County. The county spent the money on an environmental review, which was not complete when the city incorporated.
The city had until 2010 to complete the environmental document, ask for a time extension or ask for forgiveness of the debt, said Worley. The city asked for debt forgiveness but was denied, then asked for an extension and got it. The city now has until September 2012 to finish the document. “If we don’t have the environmental document complete, we may have to pay that money back,” Worley said. “Even though the county spent it, we would be responsible.”
At one point the city had most of the work complete, Worley said. The document requires an analysis of alternatives, a public process and the selection of a locally preferred alternative. The Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan did that, Worley said. “The SARP would have been our background to complete our environmental document,” he said.
But earlier this year the City Council voted to eliminate SARP and now the work would have to start over, Worley said. “Now that the SARP is thrown out, we don’t know what the council wants to do,” he said.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking toward a possible bill of $300,000 next year.