Spokane County recently marked completion of 30 years of work to protect the region’s drinking water through an aggressive sewer program.
More than 30,000 homes and businesses were taken off septic systems that had been dumping wastewater into the ground above the Spokane area’s sole source of drinking water.
The $327 million project was controversial and met resistance from residents who had been accustomed to inexpensive ways of disposing their wastewater.
But the need to prevent partially treated sewage from migrating into the region’s aquifer drove county to tackle the program.
A key part of the sewer extension was construction of a wastewater treatment plant at Freya Street just south of Trent Avenue. The $173 million plant, completed in 2011, is the largest capital investment in county history.
County Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn said the success of the wastewater system is an example of the kind of leadership she hopes to provide as the newest member of the commission.
O’Quinn on Friday delivered a “state of the county” address to a packed breakfast meeting of Greater Spokane Incorporated, the region’s chamber of commerce.
“We are taking an active leadership role in government,” she told the crowd at Mirabeau Park Hotel.
Commissioners recently voted to take over administration of the Spokane County Jail and Geiger Corrections Center, and are committed to making cost-saving reforms in the criminal justice system, she said.
The county earlier this year completed a deal to expand Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service to the city of Spokane, creating a single animal control agency countywide. SCRAPS will move into a new facility on Trent Avenue.
The animal control program is another example of how the county is seeking to improve local government services, O’Quinn said.
O’Quinn said she and the other commissioners are going to continue efforts to protect Fairchild Air Force Base from civilian encroachment.
She said she is a big supporter of the county’s acquisition of conservation lands through a voter-approved purchasing program.
The county recently hired an expert in management efficiency to be its chief operating officer, a move that should help contain the escalating cost of government services, she said.
“We are committed to thinking outside the box,” O’Quinn said. “We are committed to expanding our role as regional leaders.”