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Today’s highlights

Al Palm works on his balance and strength, with the help of occupational therapist Emily Querna, left, and his daughter Joelle, on Dec. 2 at his home in northwest Spokane. SR photo/Dan Pelle

I have to start my apologizing for my general inactivity on the blog and Twitter lately. Last week I was waylaid by a lovely flu virus and didn't leave my house for four days. I'm not quite back up to full speed yet, but I'm here. With that said, here are some highlights from today's Valley Voice.

Reporter Mike Prager has a story on Al Palm, who used to run the City Perk coffee shop in the STA Plaza. He is battling a rare diseases that paralyzed him almost overnight and his friends are organizing a benefit auction to raise money for medical equipment and renovations to his house to make it wheelchair accessible.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger has some details on the water damage from a frozen pipe that shut down Adams Elementary for two days. She also attended this week's East Valley School Board meeting, where board chair Mike Novakovich had to step in and ask people to be civil to each other. At least one speaker called for the board not to renew the contract of superintendent John Glenewinkel.

The Spokane Valley City Council voted this week to award lodging tax revenue to local agencies that promote tourism. The process has been controversial in recent years, but this year everything went fairly smoothly. The council also approved a new towing ordinance that requires tow truck operators to check if an abandoned car has been reported stolen before towing it.

Saturday’s highlights

Chris Sheppard dons only one costume on Halloween, a robe, crown and sweatshirt reading “Queen of Halloween.” Indeed, her house dominates the neighborhood, with hundreds of whimsical items for the holiday. Sheppard is shown at her home on Bettman Road in Spokane Valley, on Wednesday. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

Saturday's Valley Voice was packed full of stories (and quite a few election advertisements), so lets get right to the highlights. Reporter Lisa Leinberger stopped by the home of the Queen of Halloween, aka Chris Sheppard. Her home turns into a festival of the orange and spooky every year and this year is no different. She starts decorating the inside of her home in August but waits until September to start putting in the skeleton crawling out of its grave in the yard.

Correspondent Steve Christilaw has a story on the University High School girls soccer team, which is rallying after losing one of its star players in a car crash recently. The team had a small ceremony at their recent home game. The Spokane Valley Lodging Tax Advisory Commission recently met to make recommendations for 2014 funding to agencies that promote tourism.

We also had a ton of election coverage Saturday since ballots have now been delivered. Correspondent Valerie Putnam tackled the Millwood Mayor race between Kevin Freeman and Dennis Hamlin while Lisa covered the East Valley School District school board and Liberty Lake City Council. There was also a candidate forum last week featuring those running for Spokane Valley City Council.

Saturday’s highlights

John White, 23, is seen reflected in the rearview mirror of his 1994 CBR 600 motorcycle before running through a low-speed obstacle course during Ride ’Em Wednesday this week at Empire Cycle and Powersports. SR photo/Tyler Tjomsland

Good Monday morning, everyone. I hope everyone made it through our short but powerful thunder storm last night in one piece. There are, of course, some highlights from Saturday's Valley Voice. Reporter Lisa Leinberger stopped by Empire Cycle and Powersports for their weekly Ride 'Em Wednesday event. It includes motorcycle competitions, live music and a beer garden.  

The Spokane Valley Lodging Tax Advisory Committee recently had a meeting to discuss changes in state law governing lodging tax distribution and funding goals being put together by the City Council. The committee now has the only say in what groups and organizations will receive funding.

Yesterday was Day One of the annual “Paws in the Pool” event and Day Two kicks off tonight at the Valley Mission Pool. The annual dog swim has a new feature this year - specially made ramps to help the dogs get out of the water.

Today’s highlights

The shoreline reinforcement project at a Newman Lake cabin stops the shore from disappearing under it, as seen Tuesday. The Spokane County Conservation District secured a grant to lay “bio logs” of coconut husks wrapped in netting and plant willow trees and other waterside species to create a root matrix that will stabilize the shoreline. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

There are some good stories in today's Valley Voice on everything from erosion control to an entry in the East Farms Diary. A property owner on Newman Lake has teamed up with the Spokane County Conservation District for an erosion control project on their shrinking beach. The addition of power boats to the lake has led to larger wakes, which has washed away 30 feet of beach in the last 15 years.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger spent the day at East Farms STEAM Magnet School recently as students made presentations on projects they have been working on this trimester. Their efforts ranged from watermelon plants to a helicopter mockup.

Half of the Liberty Lake Police Department is now wearing body cameras and recording all their interactions with the public. Wearing the cameras is voluntary and five members of the department have signed on, including the police chief.

The Spokane Valley City Council doesn't seem very happy with changes to the lodging tax rules. A new state law removes the final decision making on who is awarded money and how much from the city council and gives it to the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee. The council has no power to change the awards set by the committee.

Today’s highlights

Washington State Patrol trooper Jon McKee, left, and Airway Heights police officer Mike Suniga haul their cold bodies out of Liberty Lake on Feb. 22 after taking their 16th polar plunge of the day in support of Special Olympics Washington. SR photo/Dan Pelle

There's a bunch of great stuff in today's Valley Voice. We'll start with a small group of people freezing for the cause - 10 super plungers who dipped into chilly Liberty Lake 24 times in one day to raise money for Special Olympics. One of those plungers was Liberty Lake Police Chief Brian Asmus, who raised more than $4,000.

Reporter Nicole Hensley has a story on a group of Centennial Middle School students getting ready to participate in the Inland Northwest Regional Science Bowl. They will answer knowledge questions and have a small car they built haul around a load of salt.

The Spokane Valley City Council had a day-long winter retreat Tuesday and one of the topics of discussion was the lodging tax. They discussed bills governing the lodging tax making their way through the state legislature and whether the city should change the procedure it uses to award the funds.

As for this story out of Liberty Lake, the headline says it all: “Broken-down car stolen by tow truck.” Talk about an unusual theft report.

Back at it again

I'm back in front of the computer today after spending all day yesterday at the Spokane Valley City Council's winter retreat. I'll have a story in Thursday's Valley Voice on the discussion about lodging tax and I'll tackle their 2.5 hour discussion about trash in Saturday's Valley Voice. They talked about a few other things, too, and I'll try to work in as much as I can. Just let me say that even the most comfortable chair feels really uncomfortable after eight hours…..

Saturday’s highlights

Liam Kennedy, left, and Jaden Conwell, both 8 years old and students at Adams Elementary, read pen pal letters from schoolchildren in Ghana, Wednesday. The most recent letters included talk of Christmas activities. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

I'd wish everyone a good Monday morning, but it's no longer morning. At least it's still Monday! Once again we have some Saturday Valley Voice highlights to mention. The Spokane Valley Police Department saw great success on emphasis patrols for vehicle prowling and garage burglaries at the end of 2012. The department is currently looking for a way to keep that success going within current staffing. The effort took four officers off patrol and reassigned them for a month.

Reporter Nicole Hensley came up with a couple of great stories. Fourth graders at Adams Elementary have been sending letters to pen pals in Ghana. The students also raise money to help pay for school improvements for their pen pals, such as tables in the cafeteria and used computers. Central Valley High School basketball score keeper Bill Pierce has been inducted into the school's Hall of Fame for his three decades of service to the school.

Nichole also has a report on how the city of Liberty Lake allocated its lodging tax money.

Today’s highlights

Chief Bob Anderson of Spokane County Fire District 9 has retired after more than 25 years with Spokane County Fire. He’s shown at District 9's Station 92 on Friday. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

We've got some great stuff in today's Valley Voice to go over while to wait to see if we ever get any snow that sticks around longer than required to make the streets slippery. Spokane County Fire District 9 Chief Bob Anderson has retired. In fact, he's probably sipping coffee in his retirement home in Boise as I type this. He's had a very long career that is very unusual for its tenure (26 years as chief) and his expertise in incident management that has helped make the whole state safer.

The Spokane Valley City Council came through for Valleyfest again, voting to give the organization $35,200 in lodging tax funds after the majority of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee did not recommend funding the organization. At the end of this week's meeting, council woman Brenda Grassel made a surprise announcement that she is resigning her position because she is moving outside the city limits.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a story on the annual foreign exchange student mixer hosted by West Valley High School for the last 20 years. Students representing 19 countries attended the recently event.  

Another lodging tax discussion tonight

The Spokane Valley City Council is scheduled to vote at tonight's council meeting on the 2013 lodging tax funding. There has been some discussion on whether or not to fund Valleyfest. There are a few other interesting items on the agenda tonight. The city's economic development committee, which has been meeting for months, will present its final report. The Mayor will also make recommendations for appointments to vacant seats on the city's planning commission and the lodging tax advisory committee. It's a long agenda, so be prepared if you decided to attend the meeting. It starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague.

Saturday’s highlights

Joshua Bailey, 5, enjoys a kiwi during lunch with fellow kindergartners on Wednesday at Broadway Elementary in Spokane Valley. SR photo/Tyler Tjomsland

There is a strange, golden orb in the sky on this Monday morning. While we are enjoying some sunshine, check out some highlights from Saturday's Valley Voice. Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a story on an experiment in Central Valley schools to serve lunch to half-day kindergartners. It's being tried at Broadway Elementary, where 72 percent of students quality for free or reduced price lunches.

Valleyfest organizers are once again waiting to see if they will receive lodging tax funding from the city of Spokane Valley. For the second year in a row the organization was not recommended to receive any by the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.

Correspondent Valerie Putnam has a story on the discussion at the recent Millwood City Council meeting over the public access requirement for properies on the shore of the Spokane River under the state-mandated update of their Shoreline Management Program.

The town of Fairfield is looking for donations of personal hygiene items for gift baskets for local teens. There is still a week to make a donation. SCRAPS is also looking for donations as it hosts several adoption events and fund raisers during December.  

Today’s highlights

Joe Wardell holds his son, Clive, who holds the book Wardell wrote for him to explain to his son what he did in Afghanistan during his deployment. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

Happy Thursday, everyone. For me it's Friday, since I won't be around the blog tomorrow. But until then I've got some Valley Voice highlights for you. Correspondent Cindy Hval has a great story on Army Sgt. Joe Wardell, who wrote a children's book called “Doodey the Combat Camel” for his son while he was stationed in Afghanistan. Wardell took pictures of the camel in various places while he was in the war zone and used them for the book.

The Spokane Valley City Council discussed lodging tax awards this week after the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee made its funding recommendations. The recommendations to not include Valleyfest or the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, which have both traditionally been funded. The final vote on allocations is expected in December.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a story on Orchard Center Elementary School, which recently received a $1,000 donation from the new Spokane Valley Wal-Mart.

Today’s highlights

Spokane Valley Heritage Museum Executive Director Jayne Singleton highlights a photograph of Titanic's grand staircase on display in the museum's exhibit about the April 15, 1912, sinking of the ship. SR photo/Dan Pelle

Here we are, having yet another rainy day. But it's also Thursday, which means there are some great stories from the Valley Voice to read while you have your coffee. The Spokane Valley City Council voted Tuesday to provide $30,000 in lodging tax funding to Valleyfest. This is the second round of allocations of lodging tax money for 2012 and there was a bit of a furor when Valleyfest didn't get funded in the first round.

In other news from the city, Spokane Valley Public Works Director Neil Kersten has confirmed that he is leaving the city sometime in May. He's one of the few department heads left who has been with the city since the beginning. He'll be going back to Alaska, where all his children and grandchildren live.

The Spokane Valley Heritage Museum has opened a new exhibit on the Titanic as the 100th anniversary of the sinking approaches. The exhibit includes information on local passengers who went down with the ship.

The town of Rockford is trying again to pass a one-year replacement levy to help fund the town's fire department. The levy failed in November, though is did get 56.71 percent approval. The levy requires a 60 percent supermajority to pass. The levy, which is on the April 17 ballot, would provide nearly 40 percent of the department's annual budget.

Lodging tax money up for discussion again

It looks like slow and steady will win the race at tonight's Spokane Valley City Council meeting. There are quite a few things on the agenda, but most are items the council has looked at before. There will be the second reading of an ordinance to amend the 2012 budget and the first reading of proposed ordinances that would chance the city's landscaping regulations and allow businesses to have more signs advertising alcohol.

There is one new item on the agenda that might generate some discussion. There will be a report on the second round of funding recommendations from the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee. There was some consternation earlier when the majority of the committee recommended not giving any funding to Valleyfest and they have made the same recommendation in the second round. Instead they want to give almost all the money available to the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

Today’s highlights

The Clock Tower in Riverfront Park originally was part of the Great Northern Railway Depot building. The depot opened on May 30, 1902. The structures were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. SR file photo.

Thursday brings you another edition of the Valley Voice on your front porch (or on your computer screen). In today's edition reporter Lisa Leinberger has a story on the Reading Buddies program at Opportunity Elementary School. The school brings in volutneers from Eastpoint Church to help third graders practice their reading skills.

There was an interesting twist at this week's Spokane Valley City Council meeting, where a council member said that Valleyfest organizers had been offered money in years past to not apply for lodging tax funding. The discussion was part of the ongoing debate over the council's decision to not grant Valleyfest any lodging tax money this year.

Lisa also has a story on several decisions made by the Liberty Lake City Council. The council voted to approve the 2012 budget, pay of a golf course bond and reduce the city's utility tax to 3 percent. The Clock Tower in Riverfront Park isn't in Spokane Valley, of course, but it is a regional icon. Correspondent Stefanie Pettit has a story on the landmark and the man who keeps it running.

Today’s highlights

The landowner of a 3.77-acre parcel, just west of Shelley Lake and north of Central Valley High School at 15818 E. Fourth Ave., is proposing to build 41 townhomes. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

First of all, let me apologize for being MIA from the blog a lot this week. I was moving my base of operations and have spent a lot of time packing and unpacking files. But I'm all settled in now, so it's back to normal. Today's Valley Voice is full of news stories, including one from reporter Lisa Leinberger on the fun High 5 program at Evergreen Middle School. Nearly all the students have signed a pledge to stay drug free and participate in High 5 events.

Valleyfest organizers are worried about the future of the annual festival in the aftermath of the decision by the Spokane Valley City Council not to grant lodging tax funding. There will be a second round of applications accepted, but organizers worry it may be too late. This week the council also had a lengthy discussion on the city's street maintenance contract and whether the term is too long and if the contract should be re-bid.

A hearing was held last week on a proposed 41 townhome development just west of Shelley Lake on Fourth Ave. Neighbors spoke against the project because they believe it violates a developer's agreement negotiated between Spokane Valley and the property owner. A decision on whether to approve the plan for the development should come within two weeks.

Lisa also has a report on the Liberty Lake City Council budget discussions this week. The council decided to have a special meeting next week to discuss it further.

Busy SV council meeting Tuesday

The Spokane Valley City Council has a busy agenda before it Tuesday night and the meeting could go long depending on the amount of discussion on several items that have attracted interest. The meeting is a study session so there will not be a general public comment time. There are a couple action items on the agenda that public comment will be accepted on.

The council is scheduled to vote on the allocation of lodging tax funds, which has generated a lot of debate. A vote is also planned on new planning commission rules of procedure. Several reports are on the agenda, including one on shoreline management and one on the speed limit on Mission between Flora and Barker. The speed limit item is to be discussion only and there won't be a vote on that this week. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall (11707 E. Sprague) if you want to drop by and listen.

Saturday’s highlights

The Central Valley High School Marching Band and Color Guard rehearses Tuesday for the Northwest Association for Performing Arts Championhips to be held Saturday in Hillsboro, Ore. The band made history by winning first place at the University of Oregon Festival of Bands at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., last weekend. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

The Central Valley High School Marching Band and Color Guard have had “Unflagging success“ according to a story by Lisa Leinberger in Saturday's Valley Voice. The band recently won first place in the University of Oregonal festival of Bands after putting in hundreds of hours of practice. Lisa also has an education column packed with news about local schools, including a production of “Beauty and the Beast” at University High School.

Former SR reporter Mike Vlahovich wrote an obituary on Spokane Valley “institution” Harry Larned. He was a co-founder of the Sports Creel and a former Spokane County Commissioner and Spokane Valley Fire Department Commissioner.

The Spokane Valley City Council disagreed over allocations recommended by the Lodging Tax Committee. There was also discussion of accepting a second round of applications for the lodging tax money. No decisions were made; a vote is scheduled for the Nov. 15 meeting.

City of Spokane Valley staff members hosted a developer's forum last week to share improvements being made to the permitting process and to get suggestions for further improvement. There was a surprisingly good turnout for the 7:30 a.m. meeting and the crowd was friendly enough to crack a few jokes.