December 19, 2013 in Washington Voices

Spokane Valley underfunding street work

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A recent street survey shows that Spokane Valley should be spending $7 million a year on street preservation and reconstruction projects.

The city has been spending about $4 million a year for the past few years, including about $1 million in grants, said Public Works Director Eric Guth.

Despite the annual funding shortfall, the city’s streets are in relatively good shape, Guth said. Many residential streets have been redone in recent years during sewer projects. The average Overall Condition Index rating of the city’s streets is a 68 out of 100, and only a small percentage of streets have an OCI rating less than 50. The OCI rating takes into account conditions such as cracks, potholes and ruts.

“We have a pretty healthy network of streets,” Guth said. “We have quite a few streets on the cusp that are going to need some attention.”

Guth said he has switched his focus from doing the worst streets first to devoting more attention to early rehabilitation efforts to prevent streets from deteriorating.

Councilman Dean Grafos questioned the annual spending numbers. “It seems to me it’s been way more than $4 million,” he said.

City Manager Mike Jackson said the number is an average and lately the city has been spending more. “But there is a long-term deficit,” Jackson said. “We need to dedicate even additional funding to the streets.”

Grafos noted that the city typically receives grant money only for work on arterials and hasn’t been doing residential street projects. “Are we in fact losing the battle with residential streets?” he said.

“We have not invested in the residential streets as of yet,” Guth said. Some residential streets are moving into lower rated categories, he said.

What was not discussed was how to generate an additional $3 million every year. Guth said he would make every effort to secure grants and the city could also use money coming from increasing sales tax collection as the economy improves.

In other business, the council discussed marijuana businesses that are interested in opening inside the city limits. Many people have been calling to ask where they can locate a marijuana-based businesses, said Planning Manager Scott Kuhta. Outdoor growing operations will be allowed in light and heavy industrial areas, while indoor-only grows may operate in regional commercial and community commercial zones, he said.

Marijuana processing facilities will be limited to light and heavy industrial areas because THC extraction processes involve chemicals, he said. Retail stores will be allowed in several commercial zones but not in areas zoned neighborhood commercial.

“Do we have to accept that?” said Councilman Chuck Hafner. “Do we have to allow it?”

Deputy City Attorney Erik Lamb said that question has been put before the state attorney general but there has not been a response yet. “It does appear that state law would pre-empt local jurisdictions from banning them outright,” he said. “We have heard that marijuana groups are ready to sue on the day they are denied an application.”

The council also approved appointments to the city’s planning commission and Lodging Tax Advisory Committee. Planning commission incumbent Joe Stoy will keep his seat and local civil/geotechnical engineer Chris Sneider will replace outgoing planning commissioner Bill Bates, who recently won a seat on the City Council. Only incumbents Herman Meier and Jeff Fiman applied for the open positions on the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee and they will keep their seats.

Mayor Tom Towey closed the meeting, his last as mayor, by spending a few minutes thanking several staff members for their efforts over the past four years. “I’m really comfortable with leaving,” Towey said. “We have a great council. We have a great staff. The future of Spokane Valley is bright.”

Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels, who has been on the council for 10 years, lost his recent re-election bid. He said farewell in his typical brief fashion. “I will say goodbye, good evening and ask for adjournment,” he said.


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