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Spokane City Council votes to speed up plowing, prioritize snow removal near schools and downtown

UPDATED: Mon., March 13, 2017, 10:58 p.m.

City of Spokane snow plows clear snow from Lincoln Street on Spokane’s South Hill,  Jan. 9, 2017. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
City of Spokane snow plows clear snow from Lincoln Street on Spokane’s South Hill, Jan. 9, 2017. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

As a soaking late-winter rain fell outside City Hall, the Spokane City Council voted unanimously Monday night to change their snowplow plan for next winter.

City Councilwoman Amber Waldref, who crafted a resolution calling for revisions to speed up full-city plowing and prioritize removal downtown and near schools and hospitals, said it appeared this winter officials were hesitant to call in equipment, fearing forecast storms wouldn’t materialize.

“I think what we’ve learned is, sometimes you just have to risk it,” Waldref said. “Maybe we should change the snow plan to say, at 4 inches, we’re going to go out.”

The city’s current two-stage plow plan calls for snowfall of at least half a foot before the full city is plowed. Many city council members said they were inundated by calls and emails this winter, as more than five feet of snow fell in Spokane for the first time in six years.

The council voted 6 to 0 Monday night in favor of Waldref’s resolution. City Council President Ben Stuckart was absent.

Mark Serbousek, the city’s streets director, was replaced in February, but Mayor David Condon and his staff have not said if snow removal influenced that decision.

The decision to revisit plowing priorities for next winter’s snowfall was made unceremoniously by the council, who heard testimony from just two residents Monday night about the problem before voting. Sunni Mace, a longtime South Hill resident, said she’d remained in her house for most of the winter because of what she said was a lack of urgency in the city’s response to snowfall.

“I feel like they were kind of flat-footed,” Mace said. “It puts people, like myself, in danger.”

The resolution calls for the City Council to work with Condon’s administration to develop a new snowplow plan as part of twice monthly meetings addressing public works issues. No specific policies were changed as a result of the vote Monday night.

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James M. Comstock, born in 1838 in Wisconsin, arrived in Spokane in time to witness the great fire of 1889 and start Spokane Dry Goods with Robert Paterson. It became the Crescent, Spokane’s premier department store for a century. He also worked in real estate and owned other businesses. He served a term as Spokane mayor, starting in 1899. James Comstock died in 1918.