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Today’s highlights

Teacher Robbie Robinson, second from left, stands in a greenhouse with Harmony High School students, from left, Satieva Ankey, Josh Armstrong, Chris Kinyon, Cody Buchanan and Franki Turner. SR pohto/Dan Pelle

We have a ton of good stuff to highlight in today's Valley Voice, so much that I'm not sure I can include it all without making this the mother of all blog posts. So, here we go. Spokane County is looking at a building on East Trent as a possible home for a new regional animal shelter, but first the county commissioners have to convince Spokane and Spokane Valley to go along with the plan and open their pocketbooks to pay for it.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger stopped in at Harmony High School to look at a new product the students are making and selling called Harmony Hot Peppers. It's a mix of dried, ground hot peppers that I hear really clears your sinuses. The students built their own greenhouse to grow the peppers for the mix.

The Spokane Valley City Council spent some time Tuesday with the planning commission and a pair of Seattle land use attorneys to discuss the city's Shoreline Master Program, which has to be updated by the end of 2013. The Liberty Lake City Council heard a request for more money from the Liberty Lake Library to hire staff, but spent a lot of time discussing where the money might come from.

Also in Liberty Lake, police have identified two suspects in a recent string of vehicle prowls, but no arrests have been made yet. There's a partial list of possible stolen property included with the story.

If you are looking for a chuckle (and a clever headline), check out correspondent Cindy Hval's story on the celebration of her cats' birthdays. The cat pictured with the story looks less than thrilled about his birthday attire.

Driver arrested after chase, struggle

The Spokane Valley Police Department arrested a driver after he allegedly led police on a chase that hit 100 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone Sunday night, according to a police press release. David B. Middleton, 44, was finally trapped by patrol cars and then struggled with officers, the release said.

MIddleton was arrested on a laundry list of charges, including eluding police, second-degree assault, possession of meth with intent to deliver, possession of heroin, possession of marijuana, obstructing a police officer, resisting arrest and third-degree driving with a suspended license. Reporter Meghann Cuniff has more here.

Shooting in Bella Vista neighborhood

The Spokane County Sheriff's Office arrested a man early Sunday morning after he allegedly fired a gunshot through a home's front window, according to a Sheriff's Office press release. Deputies responded to the 13700 bock of East 46th in the Bella Vista neighborhood at 3:26 a.m. Sunday. The man also allegedly pointed the gun at a man and fired several shots in the area, the press release said. Deputies arrested Jason Cunningham, 37, for drive-by shooting, first degree burglary, first degree assault and reckless engangerment. Click here for more details.

Armed man had a BB gun

Ryan C. Lancaster, who was arrested on multiple charges Wednesday evening after a standoff with police, remains in jail on a $100,000 bond. Two Spokane Valley schools were locked down and a daycare was evacuated after police received reports of a man with a gun. It turns out that Lancaster was armed with a BB gun. Reporter Meghann Cuniff has more details here.

Spokane Valley levies passing

Some local school districts are unhappy with last night's levy election results, but the levies of all school districts in the Spokane Valley area appear to be passing. There are more ballots left to count, but election night results are usually a good indicator of the final results. East Valley got a 51.97 percent yes vote, while Central Valley got a more commanding 58.4 percent yes vote. The approval vote for Freeman was 53 percent.

Both the West Valley and Liberty school districts had two levies on the ballot - a regular levy and a technology levy. All four are passing handily. Levies are in important part of any district's budget, so a whole bunch of people are breathing a sigh of relief this morning. Click here for Jody Lawrence-Turner's story on all the election results.

Two dead in Spokane Valley accident

A man and a woman killed in a traffic accident last night at Broadway and Locust in Spokane Valley have not yet been identified. Police believe speed and alcohol were involved in the crash, which sent a red Corvette head on into a large tree. Witnesses reportedly told police the car was going about 60 or 70 miles per hour in the 35 mph zone. Click here for more details.

What do people think about Spokane Valley?

A couple days ago I Tweeted several Spokane Valley survey responses. The city recently completed a mail-in survey to hear what people think about the city's parks, police, transportation service, jobs, appearance and more. Two thousand surveys were sent to random households and 459 responses were returned (24 percent).

One of the questions asked was, "What one thing do you believe the city can do to make Spokane Valley a better community?" Some responses were detailed, others were a single word. Some contradicted each other. Several people called for the Sprague and Appleway couplet to be made one-way while several others said it should stay the some. Others called for more of a police presence on the streets. More than a few disincorporation advocates said the city should go away completely. Several people suggested creating some sort of youth center for teens.

Here are some of the verbatim responses:

Keep city taxes at an essential minimum.

New city council that doesn't believe that everything should center on commercial business.

Less snow removal is better than too much, fire the dog catcher, write more speeding tickets, enforce "no trucks" zones.

Educate police on the word "fair."

Clean up the industrial buildings that have been abandoned. Bird control!

Develop a city center - in the center of the city.

Free wireless internet for everyone in Spokane Valley.

Today’s Valley Voice

In today's Valley Voice, reporter Nina Culver attended the most recent Spokane Valley City Council meeting and heard the council debate whether to repave a section of Evergreen Road after it is dug up for a new water line here.

Pia Hallenberg met a local artist, Lisa Allen, who has been spinning out purses made from old record album covers.

Cindy Hval writes about the legacy little Vanessa Behan left on the community and a special fundraiser for the Crisis Center at local Red Robin restaurants.

And I sat in on a question and answer session with Central Valley Superintendent Ben Small where residents asked about the Feb. 14 levy election. Small will have two more of these sessions if you would like to attend. The next opportunity will be tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Liberty Lake Elementary School, 23606 E. Boone, and one more next Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at University High School, 12420 E. 32nd Ave. If you have any questions, call the district office at (509) 228-5400 or visit the district's website.

Spokane Valley sex offender arrested

A Spokane Valley sex offender was arrested today at his home near the Central Valley Kindergarten Center for alleged possession child pornography. Detectives with the Spokane Police Special Victims Unit served a search warrant in the 1400 block of North Hodges and arrested Christopher M. Ebner, 37. He has prior convictions for third degree rape of a child and possession of depictions of minors enganged in sexually explicit conduct. Reporter Meghann Cuniff has more details here.

Spokane Valley to do a full city plow

The city of Spokane Valley announced early this morning (really early this morning) that they were going to start a full city plow at 6 a.m. today. Plowing every street in the city usually takes two days, unless it snows a lot more and crews have to start over. The side streets are in terrible shape and I've heard people have been getting stuck in some areas. The city is asking people to park off the street if possible so plows have a clear shot.

Weather problems

I'm going to put this post up and keep adding to it throughout the afternoon as I hear things on the scanner. Right now there is a semi jack knifed on the Argonne Hill near Bigelow Gulch and it's blocking the road. Check back frequently for more updates.

1:42 p.m. update: There's some sort of accident or slide off on I-90 at Evergreen.

2:20 p.m. update: An accident was reported on eastbound I-90 just east of Pines Road.

2:40 p.m. update: There's an accident at Wellesley and Harvard.

2:56 p.m.: Sorry about the spotty updates. My scanner hasn't worked properly since I moved. I'm having a hard time hearing things.

Spokane Valley man involved in Idaho crash

Spokane Valley resident Nathan A. Littlejohn, 28, was involved in a crash on Highway 53 near Hauser, Idaho, early this morning. According to an Idaho State Patrol press release, Littlejohn was heading east on the highway and made a left turn in front of an coming car at 6:32 a.m. Littlejohn struck a Jeep Wranger driven by Hayden resident Gerald R. Cooper Jr., 54, which caused Cooper's Jeep to flip, the press release said. It took troopers more than three hours to clear the road. Cooper was taken to Kootenai Medical Center; Littlejohn was not injured.

CenterPlace open house tonight

If you are planning an upcoming event, tonight is your chance to check out the CenterPlace event center, located at 2426 N. Discovery Place. There will be a free open house tonight from 4 to 7 p.m. People can take a tour of the building, which includes meeting rooms, a 100 seat auditorium and a Great Room that seats up to 500 people. Local caterers will have samples of their food. If you've never been to the building before, now is your chance. SR file photo.

Sprague Ave. open house tonight

Anyone interested in learning more about the Sprague Avenue reconstruction project is invited to attend an open house tonight from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Veradale United Church of Christ, 611 N. Progress Road. The project, scheduled for this summer, will rebuild Sprague between Sullivan Road and Evergreen. It is going to cause problems for motorists, but part of the discussion tonight will probably be on how to mitigate the impact as much as possible. Head over for the meeting if you would like to give input to city staff or get more details.

Towey remains Spokane Valley mayor

Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey, left, chats with city councilmen Dean Grafos, center, and Gary Schimmels before a City Council meeting Dec. 28, 2010. SR file photo.

The Spokane Valley City Council made a unanimous decision last night to re-elect Mayor Tom Towey to a second term. Towey was the only one nominated for the position, just as Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels retained his position as the only nominee. At one point last year Towey told me that he thought someone else should have a chance to be Mayor, but more recently he said that the council members he had encouraged to consider being mayor were not interested and that he was willing to serve as mayor again if nominated.

Since Spokane Valley has a city manager form of government, the role of mayor is largely ceremonial but it is a role that Towey has seemed to enjoy. The council elects a mayor from within their ranks every two years.

Bridge repairs to start Monday

The western half of the Sullivan Road bridge is scheduled for temporary repairs and eventual replacement. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

If you regularly use Sullivan Road to cross the Spokane River, you might want to replan your route or plan for the drive to take a little longer. Temporary repairs to the west Sullivan bridge that carries southbound traffic are scheduled to start on Monday. Traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction at 6 a.m. Around noon the southbound traffic will be shifted to the east bridge that usually carries northbound traffic. Once that shift occurs, the weight restrictions that have applied to southbound traffic will no longer be required. The work is scheduled to last until the end of February.

Pick the summer movies at Mirabeau

The city of Spokane Valley has again opened voting for residents to select which movies are shown during the free outdoor movie series at Mirabeau Park this summer. People can visit the city's web site and pick their top three choices from the list or suggest another move that is rated no higher than PG-13. The votes will be tabulated in March. The showings are scheduled for July 21 and Aug. 18.

Here are the choices: Cars 2, Dolphin Tale, Happy Feet 2, Hugo, Kung Fu Panda - The Kaboom of Doom, Puss in Boots, The Muppets, The Smurfs, Soul Surfer and The Zoo Keeper. Voting ends Feb. 3. If you would rather cast your vote by phone, call (509) 720-5408.

Reserve city parks on Tuesday

If you really, really want to have an event in a Spokane Valley park on a specific date, get your pencil ready. The Parks and Recreation Department will start accepting park facility reservations for 2012 on a first come, first served basis at 8 a.m. on Tuesday. You have to fill out an application form and submit it, along with the fee, by mail or in person at CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place. The fees vary depending on what facility you are reserving and for how long. Call the Parks Department at (509) 688-0300 for more information.

Sullivan Bridge repairs coming

If you drive over the Sullivan Bridge, take note. A repair project is expected to begin in early January and last through the end of February, according to a Spokane Valley press release. The goal of the project is to reinforce the failing bridge so weight restrictions can be removed while the city tries to come up with enough enough money to replace the bridge. (On that note, the City found out last week that it failed to get a $10 million federal grant to rebuild the bridge.)

During the repairs, traffic will be shifted onto the east bridge that usually carries northbound traffic (only the west bridge is failing). This means that traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction. Since both northbound and southbound traffic will be using the good bridge, the weight limits will not apply.

Car Prowler Posts Video Of Loot

Spokane Valley police say a video posted by a car prowling suspect on his Facebook page that features suspected stolen loot will be used as evidence against him. “It'd be kind of silly for us not to,” said Sgt. John Nowels.  The video, posted two days before his arrest, shows Nathan John Calvert in a vehicle he describes as a Jeep. He focused on a large amount of property in the back and passenger seat and said he hasn’t “really figured out what I’m going to do yet.” Police believe it's the same stolen Jeep that contained about 100 items of stolen property when Calvert, 28, was arrested Friday after an attorney caught him in his truck and held him until police arrived. Police also suspect Calvert used stolen equipment to film and post the video, which they learned of from The Spokesman-Review/Meghann M. Cuniff, Sirens & Gavels. More here.

Question: A candidate for "Stupid Criminal Tricks"?

A “green” credit union

SR reporter Mike Prager has a story today on Spokane Teacher Credit Union's new "green" branch in Spokane Valley. It has a free charging station for electric cars, solar panels and a roof that reflects heat. The new branch on 32nd opened this week.

STCU’s Valley branch offers Valley’s first auto charging station

Spokane Valley's first 240-volt charging station for electric cars.

Spokane Teachers Credit Union gets into the game, announcing its new South Valley location will feature an electric car charging station.

The Valley branch, at 13211 E. 32nd, will offer a  240-volt charging station for electric cars. It's called the first charging station in Spokane Valley.

That station goes live on Monday Dec. 12.

A release from STCU notes the charge station, paired with two parking spaces reserved for electric cars or chargeable hybrids, is one of a number of green features in the new branch. Others include:

  • Panels that at times will generate a surplus of power.
  • A rooftop and parking lot that reflect heat, rather than absorbing it.
  • A shower for employees who walk or pedal to work. (It's also situated on a bus route.)
  • Lights and a heating system that are highly energy efficient.
  • A no-smoking policy that includes the parking lot.

Spokane's Nystrom+Olson Architecture designed the 3,496-square-foot branch to meet U.S. Green Building Council standards for LEED Gold certification for sustainable building and development practices.

Christmas tree lightings tonight

Hundreds of Spokane Valley residents turned out for the second annual Christmas tree lighting at University City Mall in 2004. The event had several musical performances, a Santa visit and the tree lighting. SR file photo.

Both Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake are having Christmas tree lighting ceremonies tonight, so bundle up the kids tonight and head out to one of the celebrations. Spokane Valley's annual ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the University City parking lot at University and Sprague. The lighting will be at 6 p.m. Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey will speak and there are usually singers performing Christmas music. The event is hosted by the Spokane Valley Rotary.

Liberty Lake's annual ceremony will begin at 5 p.m. tonight at City Hall, 22710 E. Country Vista Drive. The night is packed with free events, including crafts, carriage rides, choir music and pictures with Santa. The evening ends at 8 p.m.

Only 24 more days until Christmas!

Election results certified

The Spokane County Elections Office has certified the November election results. There were no surprises in the final results, but a look at the election statistics reveals some interesting information. The number of ballots returned in Spokane Valley resulted in a 54.73 percent return rate, which may well be the highest in the city's history. That amounts to 26,839 ballots. The return rate was 49.6 percent in the 2009 city council elections.

The run to the polls seems to have been led by the resounding no vote on the city's Proposition 1 to fund converting one-way Sprague and Appleway to two-way streets. There were only 720 "under votes" on that issue, which refers to people who turned in a ballot but didn't select either option on that particular ballot item. In comparison the under votes in Spokane Valley City Council races ranged from 4,772 to 8,579.

But even if the voter turnout in Spokane Valley was the best ever, the city was still trounced by nearly every other jurisdiction that surrounds it. The ballot return rate was 64.9 percent in Newman Lake Fire District 13, 59.70 percent in Liberty Lake, 61.76 percent in Rockford, 64.82 percent in Fire District 8 and a whopping 71.21 percent in Waverly. (The lowest was 43.02 percent in Airway Heights.) The return rate for Spokane County as a whole was 57.04 percent.

Lane closures at Sprague and Pines

The city of Spokane Valley is shutting down some lanes at the intersection of Sprague and Pines for pavement repair work. The southbound curb lane on Pines and the westbound curb lane on Sprague will be closed through Friday. It could cause traffic problems during rush hour.

Saturday’s highlights

The city of Spokane Valley’s new snowplow is parked next to one of the original plows at the Public Works Facility in the Industrial Park. The old snowplows, purchased from the WSDOT, averaged 2,500 miles each during last year’s snowy winter. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

Here we are again on another lovely Monday morning, which means it is time to look at the Saturday Valley Voice highlights. The city of Spokane Valley is working on breaking in its first brand new snow plow, which was ordered last year but didn't arrive until April. It will be the only white plow truck you see out on the road.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger highlighted the high number of absences at the Liberty Lake City Council, which was brought into focus last week when the council meeting didn't have a quorum for nearly an hour. The Mayor is considering a chance to the council's absentee rule.

The state Public Disclosure Commission has decided not to persue a camplaint filed against former Spokane Valley City Council candidate Marilyn Cline. The complaint was filed in October. Spokane County has wrapped up sewer construction work in the Valley for the season, but residents in the Green Haven neighborhood can expect to see crews back in the spring. Large boulders and old concrete irrigation system conduits slowed work so much that the project wasn't completed in time.

Car not where it belongs

A Spokane Valley Police Officer is reporting a car jammed between a utility pole and the building that houses Old Country Buffet at Sprague and Pines. No word on how the driver got there.

12:52 p.m. update: An officer just requested that a structural engineer come by and check the building.

Deadline near for city spots

If you were thinking for applying for vacant seats on the Spokane Valley Planning Commission or the city's Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, time is running out. The deadline is Monday for all four vacancies (two on each). None of the positions are paid.

The Planning Commission is in charge of holding public hearings on planning and zoning items and making recommendations to the City Council. The two seats there are both for three year terms that would start Jan. 1. Applicants must live inside the city limits.

The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee makes recommendations to the City Council on how the lodging tax funds should be distributed. The money is collected to benefit tourism. The two open seats are both for people involved in activities authorized to receive funding for the tax.

Both applications are available on the city's web site or at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague. Call (509) 720-5102 for more information.

Spokane Valley man injured in Post Falls

The Idaho State Patrol reports that 29-year-old Spokane Valley resident Luis M. Schiaffini-Pineiro was injured in a car crash on I-90 in Post Falls late last night. An ISP press release says he was driving east in a Mazda pickup "at a speed too fast for icy road conditions" when he lost control, went off the road to the right and rolled his car "numerous" times. The accident ocurred at 10:26 p.m. Schiaffini-Pineiro was taken to Kootenai Medical Center for treatment of his injuries.

Walmart announces it will finally break ground on new E. Sprague store

We asked recently when Walmart would get around to breaking ground on a new store in Spokane Valley.

In March 2010 the company first announced it had plans for the store, west of the Costco at 5200 E. Sprague.  Our first story said: 

Walmart says it will square off with Costco Wholesale Corp. in the Spokane Valley.
The Bentonville, Ark., retail behemoth announced Thursday it will build a 151,000-square-foot retail center on a parcel of land due west of Costco’s store at 5601 E. Sprague Ave.
Jennifer Spall, the Bentonville company's director of public affairs and government relations, said: “Walmart plans to break ground this November on its new full-service store in Spokane Valley. A specific ground-breaking date has not yet been set.  Construction will be completed approximately 12 to 14 months after ground-breaking.”