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Spokane Valley City Council amends snow plan

The Spokane Valley City Council voted unanimously to make a small change to the city’s snow plow plan, clarifying that plowing the flat streets on the Valley floor would take place when traffic flow is inhibited.

Public Works Director Neil Kersten said the decision to plow is made after the city begins to receive complaints and crews are sent out to check on road conditions. It is not determined by the number of inches on the ground because dry and fluffy snow can be easier to get around in than heavy, wet snow.

“There are so many different scenarios,” he said. “We look at citizen comments.”

The city saved quite a bit of money in 2011 because of light snowfall, Kersten said. Councilman Ben Wick asked when the city would be able to post real-time plowing information on the city’s website. The city has been installing GPS units in all its plows. “We’re still working on that,” Kersten said. “Sometimes it doesn’t work quite right. I’m worried it might confuse the public.”

During the meeting the council appeared to be having second thoughts about the cost of installing a gateway sign and landscaping on a small triangle of land at Appleway and Thierman. Parks and Recreation Department Director Mike Stone presented four options ranging in price from $115,425 to $122,916. All incorporated a piece of art that may be donated to the city by the Spokane Valley Arts Council.

Mayor Tom Towey said the plans had too much landscaping that would detract attention from the entrance sign and he didn’t see a reason to put a sidewalk in on the south side of the project. “The sign should be the focal point,” he said. “Everything costs money. I just think that that’s too much.”

Stone said the sidewalk is required by city code. He also said the site is too large for just a sign and needs some kind of landscaping to look attractive. The cost includes $20,000 in site work, $24,000 for the sign, $18,000 for utilities and between $20,000 and $28,000 for landscaping, he said.

Councilman Chuck Hafner said he liked the idea of a city sign, but spending so much money on one right now would make the city seem “out of touch.”

“I’m wondering whether or not this is the time or place to be spending $120,000,” Hafner said.

Stone said the project was brought forward after the council requested it and can easily be put on hold.

Councilwoman Brenda Grassel said business owners in that area have said they want the appearance of Sprague Avenue improved. “This is helpful as a beautification project for the city,” she said. “It meets the request of business owners.” She also favored including the sidewalk. “I think it adds to the overall appearance. I have seen pedestrians walk in that area.”

Councilman Dean Grafos agreed that the project is important but said it’s also too expensive.

“This is the gateway to the city,” Grafos said. “I believe it’s just as much an economic development tool as some other things we’re doing.”

Several council members agreed that the proposed landscaping plans included too many trees. Wick suggested that the remaining trees could be decorated during the holidays. Councilman Arne Woodard said some of the trees behind the sign should be kept in the plan. “You don’t need to lose all the trees,” he said.

Woodard also suggested using community donations and volunteer labor to get the project done. “I think you’ll have people lining up to do the site work,” he said.

In other business, staff presented a report on the city’s current shoreline master program. The city simply passed the county’s plan, originally adopted in the 1970s, when the city incorporated. The city is required to pass an updated shoreline master program by the end of 2013. The city has completed an inventory of its shorelines and their conditions, but work stalled after a community group of business owners, environmental groups and city staff put together suggested goals and policies.

“We’ve been on hold for three months now,” Community Development Director John Hohman said.

Senior planner Lori Barlow said using such an outdated plan has caused problems since conditions have changed over time. “We’re talking about a plan tonight that has been in place for nearly 40 years,” she said.

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