There were two standing ovations in the Spokane Valley City Council chambers Tuesday night, but they weren’t the result of a popular vote. They came after two residents were recognized for their contributions to the community.
Mayor Tom Towey awarded the March community recognition award to Mike Frucci, a retired educator who runs the Children’s Book Bank out of the old University High School on Ninth Avenue. The program, supported by Success by Six and the Kiwanis Clubs of Spokane County, provides free books for children age 6 and younger at local schools, preschools and day care centers. The “very important program” hands out about 17,000 books a year, Towey said.
Frucci thanked Towey for the award and also thanked several Kiwanis members in the audience for their support. “I really appreciate it,” he said. He seemed embarrassed by the standing ovation and gestured for people to sit.
The Book Bank recently gave two Dr. Seuss books to every child at the Central Valley Kindergarten Center, Frucci said.
Towey also recognized Spokane Valley resident Heather Comer, who won three skiing medals at the 2013 Special Olympics World Games in South Korea. “We’re very proud of Heather and her accomplishments,” Towey said.
“Thank you guys,” Comer said. “It was just a lot of fun.”
In other business, the council members moved quickly through their agenda. They unanimously approved the first reading of ordinances that would limit pre-employment physicals to only certain city jobs and allow townhouses in neighborhood commercial zones. The amended 2013 Transportation Improvement Plan was also approved. Changes were made to the plan to add projects that were not completed in 2012, street preservation projects and other projects that received grant funding.
Councilman Chuck Hafner said people may dislike all the road construction happening this year but should be happy that the city is able to maintain its streets. “They’re going to be a little bit irritated when they can’t quite get home,” he said.
Planning manager Scott Kuhta gave a report on State Environmental Policy Act regulations that are being changed at the state level. Kuhta is the only Eastern Washington municipal representative on the state SEPA Rule Making Advisory Committee. The goal is to streamline SEPA and make it less burdensome, Kuhta said.
The work done so far is to raise the flexible thresholds on minor projects. Cities and counties can either adopt the flexible thresholds or go with the lower baseline thresholds in SEPA regulations, Kuhta said. Under the old rules a development inside city limits had to include 20 dwelling units before a SEPA review was required. The new threshold is 30 dwelling units. The same thing was done to the landfill/excavation threshold, which was at 500 cubic yards and is now 1,000 cubic yards.
Now the group is looking at creating categorical exemptions for minor code amendments and making sure there is enough notice given to the community and local tribes about upcoming projects, Kuhta said.