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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Construction cranes in downtown Spokane

How does seeing them make you feel?

A) Encouraged. B) Optimistic but mindful that downtown still faces multiple challenges. C) As a registered downtown hater, I can only assume that it is some sort of Cowles conspiracy. D) What do cranes downtown have to do with me? E) Other.

Hydraulic code updates affect construction around state waters

CONSERVATION — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will accept public comments through Nov. 15 on proposed updates to the Hydraulic Code, which governs construction work in and around state waters.

Agency staff will hold a public meeting to discuss the changes on Monday, Oct. 28, at Center Place Event Center, 2426 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.

Hydraulic Code rules were last updated in 1994, with the exception of those for mineral prospecting, which were updated in 2008.

The proposals would update the requirements to stay current with fish science and design technology and streamline the review process for hydraulic permit applications, agency officials said.

McEuen Field Work Continues

McEuen Update provides construction status for Sherman Avenue work and ongoing reconstruction at McEuen Park/Front Avenue today: "Harbor House construction has begun with the pouring of concrete for the foundation. The stem walls will be poured next week. Third Street improvements are well under way and on schedule. Curb, sidewalk and approach work starts today, June 7. Crushed rock will be applied to the road surface beginning Monday in preparation for paving. (McEuen Update photo)

Question: Have you ventured downtown to check out construction work?

Portion of Sullivan Road shutting down

The section of Sullivan Road between Kiernan and Trent will be closed completely between 9 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Crews will be doing a grind and overlay of the pavement in that section and the road is too narrow to do the work while cars use the road. A detour route will be available via Flora Road and Euclid Ave. If you need to be out and about on those nights, plan on taking another route.

McEuen Work Schedule Unveiled

From City Clerk Susan Weathers' rough draft of the minutes from the Coeur d'Alene City Council meeting Tuesday night. City Administrator Wendy Gabriel gave the following report re: McEuen Park project work, which includes "mass grading at the parking lot of City Hall and the trail at the base of Tubbs Hill which will occur at the end of August.  The bid opening for the contractors for the McEuen Parks Project will be held (next Tuesday) with the award of the bid slated for (Tuesday, Aug. 21) council meeting.  Work on the base of Tubbs Hill will begin the end of August.  The basketball court and playground will remain intact until next spring.  Parking at the Third Street lot will be reduced during the construction activities in August.  During construction of the parking lot at City Hall, there will be no parking available in the lower lot. (Gabriel) noted that the osprey nests will be protected until they leave around the end of September.  Additionally, they are looking at installing a web cam of the project for citizens to view." (SR file photo: Liz Kishimoto)


Spokane Valley announces upcoming bike/ped improvements

This is a pretty impressive list. The City of Spokane Valley has numerous Bike and Pedestrian Capital Improvements they're working on for 2012 they would like you to know about. It's nice to see their Bike and Pedestrian Program implemented and here's the rundown of projects:

Sprague Avenue Reconstruction - This project will reconstruct the existing pavement section and modify the striping to provide a wide shoulder lane to accommodate bicyclists. The Adams Rd traffic signal will be replaced and include pedestrian countdown timer displays, accessible push buttons, and bicycle detection loops.

Evergreen Road Rehabilitation - This project will take advantage of a water line replacement project by VERA Water & Power to grind and inlay Evergreen Road from 16th to 24th and reconstruct Evergreen from 24th to 32nd Avenue. Enhancements to sidewalks and striping for bike lanes will be completed as part of the project.

Guest column: “Grow Up! The Vertical Garden Trend”

When constructing a sustainable building, there are many options for materials, but there’s one option that’s totally green and totally cool. Vegetative walls date back to the ancient days, and now the technology that supported the wonder of Babylon’s hanging gardens is beginning to sprout up all over the world.

Vegetative roofs are relatively common in the green construction business. A living wall is similar, but stands vertically. It has a root system that tracks the entire wall. A green façade is what you would call an ivy covered trellis where the roots climb a wall in one direction. Trellis systems can be used to build green walls, if multiple growth points are used.

 "Living wall" at the Marks & Spencers Norwich store after 18 months of extensive redevelopment the revamped store opened in September 2011. Photo by Evelyn Simak.

Plants of living walls can either be supported by recirculation water (delivering nutrients directly to the roots of the plant material) or it can use soil (or another growing material). Walls that use growth media will require small containers to house the soil-like materials and the plant it sustains.

Vertical walls that use media can support beneficial micro-organisms. They can also hold water, which can require less irrigation. However, when constructing a green wall that lives on media, it is important to allow for free drainage and plenty of oxygenation to protect your plants against harmful pathogens that thrive in anaerobic conditions.

Part of Liberty Avenue to close Tuesday

Liberty Avenue will be closed from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday between Park Road and Edgerton Road for utility work. Drivers will detour around the area, plan for a traffic slowdown if you need to drive in that area.

Man in ‘95 Idaho fraud charged again

Faith Gallinger stands in the kitchen of her North Side bungalow. The contractor has yet to do the $2,500 worth of work she paid for. (SRPhoto/Jesse Tinsley)

Faith Gallinger had long wanted custom cabinets for her early 20th-century home in northeast Spokane. Ronald Glen Stratton seemed perfect for the task – he boasted of being able to do the work for only labor costs because he already had the supplies. But she had to act fast – someone else was looking at the same wood and supplies were limited.

 More than a year and $2,500 later, the old, mismatched cabinets still in her kitchen serve as a reminder of what Gallinger, a 33-year-old pediatric nurse, says was a good but expensive lesson in the risky business of private contracting.

“I wouldn’t just assume that he was trying to scam me,” Gallinger said. “I guess I’m just kind of naive and very trusting. Well, maybe not anymore.”

Worse than a business deal gone bad, detectives and prosecutors allege it was a deliberate crime with at least 12 victims that Stratton (pictured) has been committing for more than a decade.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 23, 1995: Stratton sentenced in contractor fraud case

March 15, 1995: Contractor faces criminal charges

Section of Balfour Road closed

The city of Spokane Valley has announced that Balfour Road between 13th and 14th is closed to all traffic until Nov. 4 for utility work. Make sure you detour around that area until it reopens. Also, there is some landscaping work going on at the new roundabout at Flora and Mission that is affecting traffic flow. Even though the weather is getting colder some road construction projects are still ongoing, so keep an eye out for work crews. 

Northside constructon trailers looted

Here's a news release from Sgt. Dave Reagan:

Someone broke into a pair of construction trailers overnight Wednesday and made off with about $2,200 worth of tools and equipment.

A foreman for Graham Construction told Spokane County sheriff's Deputy Terry Liljenberg that the trailers were parked below new bridges being constructed at Wandermere for the North-South freeway. The break-ins were discovered about 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

Thieves stole an Echo chainsaw, a Husquavarna demolition saw, a DeWalt roto-hammer, two 100-foot 220 amp power cords and a Honda 220 amp generator.

The thieves unsuccessfully attempted to break into a third trailer, he said. Anyone with information is encouraged to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Jury rejects claims in fatal crash lawsuit

Dorothy Mullican sat on a courthouse bench and cried Thursday after losing a five-year legal battle to hold someone responsible for her son’s death.

Mullican’s son, Daren Lafayette, 19, was working on a road crew on Sept. 12, 2006, when a truck began rolling downhill toward a car that had two people inside. Lafayette chased down the truck and climbed inside, but could not stop it before it careened over an embankment and exploded.

A Spokane County Superior Court jury absolved the general contractor, N.A. Degerstrom, a brake manufacturer and the worker who installed the brake on the truck.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

June 1: Fatal runaway truck case in hands of jury

Mission trailhead closed today for road work

Access to the trailhead where Mission Avenue dead ends at the Centennial Trail in Greenacres will be temporarily shut down today. As part of the Indiana Avenue extension project, crews are grinding down the paved portion of Mission and resurfacing it. Today crews will grade the unpaved portion of Mission and then spread the gravel-sized pieces of asphalt on the surface. It's a nice bit of recycling that will improve the dirt portion of Mission without too much efffort. As anyone who has driven that stretch lately can tell you, it was sorely in need of a good grading at the very least. And as an added bonus, the work is expected to widen the turn around where the street ends at the trail.

Kootenai County outpaces Spokane for total construction in September

McGraw-Hill Construction just published these numbers for construction in Spokane and Kootenai counties during September.

For Spokane, the most obvious big leap in in residential construction, comparing this past September to the same month of 2009. Two other major building trends are evident: Even with Spokane having a 34 percent year-over-year gain in residential building this past month, Kootenai County shows more robust construction in that sector.

And nonresidential buldings (which are basically all commercial, manufacturing or school-related projects) continue lagging along. It’s clear the abundant supply of office vacancies plays a key role in holding down nonresidential construction.

Spokane County

                              2010              2009                Change in percent

  • Nonresidential  $5,495,000    $5,454,000     1
  • Residential       $18,135,000  $13,535,000  34
  • TOTAL             $23,630,000  $18,989,000  24

Kootenai County

                               2010             2009               Change in percent

  • Nonresidential $5,420,000   $5,546,000       -2
  • Residential:     $19,173,000  $16,847,000    14
  • TOTAL            $24,593,000  $22,393,000    10


When is “local access” local access?

Via reader e-mail earlier today: “Say, at the moment, the police are pulling people over going up and down Altamont, and a quick Google yielded the fact that you have blogged about the repairs, so I thought I’d see what you know.  Obviously, they have the road partially blocked off because of 9th, but I’d think that “local access” would stil apply, since Altamont is in perfect shape (having already been torn up recently).

Any idea what gives, since you’ve apparently looked into it? Legal to go down Altamont if you live (as do I) on that side of the 9th closure/construction? Most days, there is an opening on one lane for cars to go through (which everyone living at the top of Altamont does) except for two random days where the signs were moved over to physically block the whole thing and cops parked at either end.
Any insider info?”

And South Perry is open again

Merchants were seeing a noticable drop in business over the past couple of weeks - some down 25 to 30 percent - as South Perry and Ninth Avenue were under construction. They’ll be happy to hear that South Perry is now open for good, just in time for the weekend.

Ninth Avenue from Altamont to Perry Street, and again west from Perry Street to Arthur remains closed for now.

Building Their Skills

Spokane Vocational Skills Center school student Brian Hartmeier, left, adds water while instructor Chuck Sauer, second from left,  demonstrates how to mix cement for footings for the new deck for the house being refurbished by student labor on the 2000 block of East Decatur Street in northeast Spokane. The house is owned by the city of Spokane, and a group of high school students will spend one to two years rebuilding the run-down structure, learning construction skills.

In a small corner of northeast Spokane, a dilapidated house is slowly becoming a home. The house isn’t the product of an “Extreme Makeover” television program; it’s collaboration between the city of Spokane and the Spokane Vocational Skills Center construction class. More here.

How would you feel if your kid/s chose to go to trade school instead of college?

Skirting high costs for green homes

There’s an interesting article in the Columbian about what builders are doing to make green homes affordable. “We’re not just throwing economics out of the equation and going full-tilt green,” said Vancouver City Council member and civil engineer Tim Leavitt. On his own home construction, counters will be made of recycled concrete and rain will be captured from the roof for irrigation. As a financial compromise, he can’t afford solar panels or a geothermal ground source heating system but is able to wire and prepare the home so it can be installed later when the equipment becomes less pricey. For now, Leavitt wants to build his home no more than ten percent more expensive than a traditional one while cutting the cost of utilities in half.

On the “full-tilt green” side of the dialogue, promoters are looking into government or foundation grants to help underwrite construction for “premium homes.” One demonstration home with a commitment to a Living Building Challenge certification (generate as much energy as it uses, reuse all water, mindful of wildlife) can hopefully serve as an example for this type of green initiative. “Local building codes are in the process of being changed as a result of this project. Products manufacturers are rethinking how to bring the goods to market. Water harvesting is being reconsidered at the state level, and our project is the first attempt at packaging these efforts and bringing them to the market,” said Project Green Build President Brandon Tauscher, founder of a non-profit organization to promote green building techniques.

Our only concern: Premium homes immediately conjures images of suburban sprawl, or worse, those dastardly McMansions. But the thought of building codes changing to a stricter sustainable program is exciting. More.