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Arrest made in Spokane Valley cold case

Spokane County Sheriff's deputies have arrested a man for the 1992 murder of Spokane Valley furniture store owner Brian Cole, who was killed during a robbery. Patrick K. Gibson, a registered sex offender living in Stanwood, Wash., was tied to the crime through newly tested DNA evidence. Reporter Meghann Cuniff has more details here.

In passing: Ron Jackson

Ron Jackson, long-time Valley sports coach and sometime Valley political activist, passed away last week at age 83. With wife Sally, Ron was a mainstay of Democratic politics in the Spokane Valley, something that wasn’t rare when they got started many  decades ago but required a certain amount of fortitude or stubbornness lately.
As colleague Mike Vlahovich reported in Saturday’s paper, Ron was a standout baseball player and coach. After retiring, he and Sally taught generations of kids to swim and to hit a curve ball. They taught generations of young politicians to work hard and shoot straight. They owned the Jackson Hole Tavern for more than a dozen years, the kind of neighborhood establishment which sponsored sports teams and carried more than a few patrons on a tab when times were tough.
Slowed by Parkinson’s Disease over the last decade, Ron still made it to many political gatherings and always had a smile or a wink for old friends. The fabric of the Valley community lost a colorful thread, and Ron will be sorely missed.

Where were your elected officials today?

The answer was probably the fourth and final State of the City address by Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey. The event just ended at CenterPlace and the audience was full of politicians. Here's a sampling: Spokane Mayor Mary Vernor, Liberty Lake Mayor Wendy Van Orman, Rockford Mayor Micki Harnois, Spokane County Commissioners Al French and Todd Mielke, Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan, Spokane Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin and Spokane Valley Fire Department Commissioners Monte Nesbitt, Joe Dawson and Bill Anderson.

Rounding out the group was every Spokane Valley council member except for Bill Gothmann, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, Spokane Valley Police Chief Rick Van Leuven, Spokane Valley Fire Department Chief Mike Thompson and Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service director Nancy Hill. I guess the speech was the place to be today. 

Mayor Towey had a little fun with his interactive voting during today's speech. He said he's been told his style while running council meetings is too laid back. So he asked if he should run the meetings Shogan style, Towey style or Larry the Cable Guy style. Fifty percent of the crowd voted for Larry the Cable Guy style. “I'd say Mr. Shogan and I have a lot of work to do,” Towey said.

Open house on I-90 changes

The Washington State Department of Transportation will host an open house Thursday to present design options for Interstate 90 between Barker Road and Harvard Road. There are plans in the next few years to add lanes and make changes to the on and off ramps along that stretch of the freeway.

The open house will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Hope Lutheran Church, 17909 E. Broadway. There will be no formal presentation, but engineers will be there to answer questions and take comments on the various proposals.

How soon is Wal-Mart building its newest Spokane Valley store?

About a year ago the SR published news that Wal-Mart would put another new store in Spokane Valley, about six blocks east of the Costco, about 5601 E. Sprague.

There hasn't been a lot of progress so far on that project, which we wrote about first here. Why not?

We tracked down Wal-Mart's regional contacts to find out when the project will get going. Here's the reply:

  • Construction will start in late summer or early fall. Think August or September.
  • It will take 12 to 14 months after groundbreaking before the new Wal-Mart opens. 
  • A Spokane Valley hiring center will be set up roughly 90 days before the doors open. That hiring office will have an online component for job applicants. It's here.  

The store will include a garden center with outside sales area covering about 4,700 square feet (very large). 

It is slated to include an indoor pharmacy, a full-service grocery and a Subway sandwich store inside.

When finished, it will be about 155,000 square feet.

Things to do, places to be

There are so many things going on today and Saturday that I thought I would post a few highlights. They are fairly far flung - in Spokane Valley, Otis Orchards and Rockford. So no matter where you are, you've got someplace to be.

The fun kicks off today with the season opening of Discovery Playground at 2426 N. Discovery Place from 3 to 5 p.m. The new playground was hugely popular last year and a few changes were made over the winter to make things more durable. This afternoon's celebration includes family activities and a tree planting ceremony with the Mayor. The weather could be better, but we have to take what we can get.

On Saturday people will have to choose between competing events in Otis Ochards and Rockford. A Ronda Jo Emerson Memorial fundraiser is planned for 1 p.m. at the Otis Grill at Harvard and Wellesley. Emerson was a co-owner of the Otis Grill before she died in a snowmobiling accident earlier this year. The event will include a spaghetti feed for $7.99 a plate and a silent auction and raffle.

At the same time the small town of Rockford will be putting on its annual FredNeck's Frog Regatta Festival that starts at 1 p.m. The afternoon includes free hot dogs in the park from 1 to 2 p.m., free games for kids in the park beginning at 2 p.m. and a frog regatta down Rock Creek beginning at 3 p.m. There are cash prizes for the regatta and frogs can be purchased Saturday in the park for $5.

Rockford is fairly easy to find. Just head south on Highway 27, stay on the highway until you get to Rockford, then take a left just after the overpass.

State of the City

Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey will host the first of four State of the City addresses tonight at 7 p.m. at Valley Fourth Memorial Church, 2303 S. Bowdish. The mayor plans to discuss highlights from 2010, the city's budget and goals for 2011. Several council members will also be in attendance and there will be time for discussion/questions and answers on community issues after the Mayor's speech.

If you can't make it tonight, the program will be repeated at 7 p.m. Thursday at CenterPlace (2426 N. Discovery Place), 7 p.m. April 21 at Woodard Elementary (7401 E. Mission) and 12:30 p.m. April 28 at CenterPlace.

Five Guys now open!

I drove by the new Five Guys Burgers and Fries location at 10 N. Sullivan Road yesterday afternoon and there's a small “now open” sign out front. The sign on the door says hours are from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to head over there for lunch and tell me what I should order when I drop in. Feel free to share your impressions of the new burger joint (which is also famous for its huge servings of fries) in the comments.

Oops. Wrong pipe.

Scanner traffic says that a sewer installation crew on Boone Avenue between Greenacres Road and Long Road has accidentally severed a 2-inch natural line gas line. Spokane Valley Fire Department crews are on the scene. Additional intersections in the area may be shut down until the leak is fixed.

1:30 p.m. update: Valley Fire is now sending its technical rescue team to the scene. Workers will need to enter a trench to make repairs and the trench may need to be reinforced to make sure it doesn't collapse while someone is in it. Residents near the gas leak have been evacuated from their homes.

Saturday’s highlights

Among construction projects in Spokane Valley, work has started again on the Barker Road sewer project at Laberry Drive in Greenacres. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

There was a lot to go over in Saturday's Valley Voice and I've got highlights in case you missed a few things. Road construction season has started already in Spokane Valley, with several road and sewer projects coming up. A few are already underway. The largest and most disruptive project planned (other than the addition of new freeway lanes between Sullivan and Barker) is the installation of a concrete intersection at Indiana and Sullivan.

Reporter Lisa Lienberger was in a humanities class at Central Valley High School recently when World War II veteran Del Spear visited to talk about his experiences on a minesweeper. Spokane Valley City Councilman Dean Grafos recently filed paperwork to run for re-election this November. In related news, the Spokane Valley City Council selected five candidates to interview this week for one of the two vacant council positions.

Fatal accident update

According to a Washington State Patrol press release, 29-year-old Teri M. Scheele of Spokane was driving the wrong way in the eastbound lanes of I-90 at Barker just after 3 a.m. when she hit a car head on. The driver of the car she hit, identified as 27-year-old Kenneth J. Hardin of Post Falls, was taken to Sacred Heart Hospital where he later died. Another driver was able to avoid being hit by Scheele, but ended up driving into the cable barrier between the eastbound and westbound lanes to do it. Scheele was arrested for vehicular homicide, the press release said.

East I-90 closed at Barker Road

The eastbound lanes of I-90 are completely closed at Barker Road and a detour is in place. A three car accident was reported at 3:10 a.m. today and the road has been closed ever since. Initial reports from the Washington State Patrol is that someone may have been driving the wrong way on the freeway. One of the people involved has died.

Traffic is reportedly backed up in the area and I heard on the scanner a few minutes ago that the eastbound Sullivan on ramp was being closed to help relieve the traffic backup. I'll update with more information when I get it. 

7:53 a.m. udpate: It looks like the WSP re-opened the road as I was typing. It will probably take a bit to clear up the backlog of traffic, though.

Chicken Revolution

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — After months of debate the Spokane Valley City Council made changes to the city's chicken regulations.Those changes make it possible for people who live with in the city limits to own chickens on small residential pieces of property.

Craig Goodwin has four chickens in his backyard right next to his children's swing set. “They have names, yeah, Eagle, Chrysanthemum, Daisy and Honolulu,” Goodwin, a self-proclaimed chicken person, said.

Goodwin says his four chickens produce two dozen eggs a week, but that is the only source of food they supply for his family of four. “I think the general rule is, if you name your chickens, you don't eat them,” he said.KXLY.com More here.

What do you think about the urban chicken trend? Do you have chickens in your backyard?

ReliOn’s fuel cell product takes a third at CTIA Wireless 2011

Spokane Valley's ReliOn won a third prize in this year's CTIA Wireless E-Tech awards competition, held in Orlando.

The company's new E-2500 Fuel Cell System came in third in the “green telecom and smart energy solutions category. The winner in that category is the What You See is Photovoltaic Surface, by WYSIPS LLC. Second place went to the LilyPad developed by Wireless NRG, LL.

Media and analysts judged the entries on innovation, functionality, importance, implementation and overall “wow” factor. The entries are on view at www.ctiashow.com/awards.

The E-2500 is marketed toward telecom companies and government users.

The top two green telecom winners both offered innovative physical surface-based systems that convert solar or existing light to energy. The full green telecom category can be viewed here.

Flags at half staff to honor McCaslin

Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey read a proclamation at last night's city council meeting calling for flags at city facilities to be flown at half staff through Sunday in honor of councilman and former senator Bob McCaslin, who died last week. McCaslin was elected to the city council in November 2009 and had served as a state senator since 1981 before resigning for health reasons in January.

Bob MCaslin Jr. was there to accept a copy of the proclomation and joked that he had never come to a council meeting before because he was afraid someone would ask him to run for office. McCaslin's memorial service is set for 2 p.m. Sunday at University High School, 12420 E. 32nd.

Street closures next week

Several roads are scheduled to be closed beginning next week as Spokane County goes back into neighborhoods to finish up a couple of sewer projects from last year. The neighborhoods affected are south Greenacres and Corbin.

The streets to be closed are: Missoin Avenue from Flora Road to Barker Road; Boone Avenue from Long Road to Greenacres Road; Barker Road from Bow Avenue to Sprague Avenue; and about 400 feet of Bowe Avenue just to the West of Barker Road. The streets will be closed, but local traffic will be allowed in.

The times, they are a changin’

The Spokane Valley Fire Department has sent out is annual reminder for everyone to change the batteries in their smoke detectors this weekend when Daylight Saving Time kicks in. Batteries need to be changed once a year and residents should test their smoke detectors at least once a month. And no, that doesn't mean you burn some food to test it. Use the test button. So on Saturday night set your clocks ahead one hour and change those batteries.

Today’s highlights

The HUB Sports Center hosted the Apex Awareness Volleyball Tournament for Kira’s Kloset, March 5 and 6, and 16 teams from throughout the Inland Northwest traveled to play. The facility has five full-size basketball courts that can be converted into 10 volleyball courts. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

With all that rain that's coming down out there, now is a good time to get a cup of coffee and check out the stories from today's Valley Voice. This week the Spokane Valley City Council advanced two ordinances. One will loosen the rules on chickens in residential areas and the other will toughen language that applies to adult retail businesses. Both are now scheduled for a final vote during the March 22 council meeting.

Spokane Valley Finance Director Ken Thompson has announced that he will retire in June. He will be the fourth department head to leave the city in a little over a year. The city plans to replace him as soon as possible and applications will also be accepted soon for the city attorney position.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger headed out to the Valley HUB recently to see how the non-profit is doing. Business is up and there's enough money to pay the bills, but the issue of ownership of the building is still out there. Regular correspondent Stefanie Pettit has a touching column about her long time friend and mother figure who recently died. 

If you are handy in the kitchen and looking for a steady opportunity to volunteer, Shalom Ministries in downtown Spokane is looking for a volunteer chef to cook breakfast four times a week and dinner once a week for low income people. Reporter Pia Hallenberg has a nice feature in today's Voice on current volunteer chef John “Gus” Olsen, who is retiring.

And the winners are…

The votes are in and the winners of the competition to decide which free movies are shown in Mirabeau Park this summer have been announced. “Despicable Me” will be shown at 9:15 p.m. on July 23 and the winner in the teen choice category is “The Sorcerer's Apprentice,” which will be shown at 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 20. All I can say is, the teenage girls must have stayed home and not voted. I thought for sure if that demographic got out the vote we would all be watching the latest in the “Twilight” series.

The City of Spokane Valley hosts the movies and will provide an hour of free activities before showtime each night. So mark your calendar now and get that picnic hamper out of the garage. It's time to dream of warm summer nights in the park.

Coming Thursday

Wednesday may be known as Hump Day to some, but around here it is known as Preview the Thursday Valley Voice Day. So, here we go. The Spokane Valley City Council had a lengthy meeting Tuesday night. A ton of people flocked to City Hall to comment on proposed ordinances to loosen the rules on chickens in residential zones and tighten the rules on adult retail businesses. The council also voted to buy a piece of property on the edge of the Industrial Park to serve as the city's maintenance facility. There was a lot more discussion on other topics, but I couldn't fit it all in one story. Expect to see a second story on the other issues in the Saturday Valley Voice.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger recently checked in to see how the Valley HUB is doing. Business is aparently booming, so she'll have the details on that. There will also be a story on upcoming staffing changes at the City of Spokane Valley.

Spokane Valley man arrested after crash in Idaho

The Idaho State Patrol reported late last night that they arrested Spokane Valley resident Lloyd J. Brown, 52, Wednesday on a variety of charges after the Ford Taurus he was driving was involved in a spectacular crash on I-90 as it passes through Osburn, Idaho. According to an ISP press release Brown was driving east at milepost 57 when he missed a curve. He drove into the median, over a guardrail and was launched in the air over Third Avenue before the car landed upside down below the freeway.

Brown was arrested for aggravated driving under the influence, possession of methamphetamine, trafficking in heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia, the press release said. Both Brown and his passenger, a 21-year-old Spokane Valley resident, were injured and taken to Shoshone Medical Center.

A check of the Spokesman-Review archives shows that Brown was sentenced to 120 months in prison in 2002 after pleading guilty to two counts of manufacture of a controlled substance. He was arrested twice in 2001 in connection to meth labs found in the 13300 block of East Mission and the 16400 block of East Valleyway.

In other news, Spokane Valley resident Jeffrey S. Brown, 40, who was previously accused of abusing his dog, was charged with felony assault on a child for allegedly abusing his 4-year-old stepson. Reporter Meghann Cuniff has more details here.

Bits and pieces

I'm still trying to get caught up from yesterday and wanted to post some links to news items in yesterday's paper in case you missed them. Police say a theft ring has been targeting vacant homes for sale in Spokane Valley and stealing kitchen appliances. Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for anyone who provides information that results in arrests. Call (800) 222-TIPS or click here. Reporter Meghann Cuniff has more details on her Sirens & Gavels blog.

Meghann also had a story on Terence M. Washington, who police say is suspected of drugging a woman and impersonating a police officer. Police are searching for more women who may have been drugged by Washington. Anyone who had contact with him should call Det. Kirk Keyser at (509) 477-3786. There's also a mug shot of Washington here.

St. Luke’s Rehab clinic relocates its Spokane Valley office


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St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute has moved it Spokane Valley rehab clinic to a new facility at 9119 E. Broadway.

Previously at 1414 N. Houk, the outpatient facility will help meet a growing demand for training and rehabilitation, especially for injured workers.
 
David Cox, the manager of the Valley clinic, said in a press release: “There was an unmet need for occupational therapy services to rehabilitate injured workers who work or live in Spokane Valley. St. Luke’s expanded facilities to better serve our community.” 

Are we having fun yet?

School children all over the Valley are giddy this morning. Probably everyone knows by now that just about every school district is closed today - Freeman, Central Valley, West Valley and Liberty. East Valley is on its winter break this week, so they are not racking up a snow day they'll have to make up later. Highway 195 between Spangle and Rosalia was closed for several hours this morning, but it is now open again.

The City of Spokane Valley started a full city plow this morning. Still, be careful on the roads until things get cleaned up. Don't forget there's ice under that fresh new snow.

I took the picture above in my front yard this morning after I spent an hour digging out my car and my driveway. The snow was deep, but thank goodness it was pretty light and fluffy. Now it needs to stop snowing so I don't have to do it again.

It’s here

As a winter storm arrives in Spokane, Wash., snowflakes land and melt on a car window on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011. SR photo/Colin Mulvany

Well, the snow we've all been eagerly anticipating is here. At the moment it is tough to see across the parking lot. The scanner is still fairly quiet, though I would expect that to pick up as the snow accumulates. So far there's a semi accident on Highway 195 near Babb Road with the driver still trapped inside. If any particular spots get nasty as the afternoon progresses, I'll let you know.

1:44 p.m. update: If anyone was planning to head over to Coeur d'Alene, use caution. The westbound lanes of I-90 are shut down between Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls due to a nine car accident. Roads are apparently very slick there with the Idaho State Patrol dealing with more than half a dozen accidents.

2:22 p.m. update: A six car pileup was just reported in the eastbound lanes of I-90 at Argonne. Emergency crews are on the way.

2:27 p.m. update: Three car accident at Bowdish and Mission. It's officially getting nasty out there.

3:12 p.m. update: Accident reports are continuing to come in steadily. Check here for information on the weather by reporter Mike Prager. Be very careful driving home tonight. 

3:32 p.m.: Heading away from the scanner. Everyone drive safely. Check here for school closure information tonight and tomorrow morning.

Saturday’s highlights

A wide-open garage like this one in Liberty Lake is an almost irresistible opportunity to burglars, police say. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

There is a lot to catch up on if you missed Saturday's Valley Voice. Open garages like the one pictured above have been nothing but a free buffet for thieves in Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake. Police have arrested suspects in each city, but there are still more out there. Police are urging people to lock up.

The town of Fairfield is considering a six percent utility tax on electricity usage in order to raise money for street maintenance. A public hearing was held last week and a vote is expected by April.

Last week students from Ness Elementary helped distribute free food at Millwood Presbyterian Church. The food distribution is held every month. The Spokane Valley Fire Department also made an arrest for two recent arson fires. Anthony W. Sotin was indicted by a Federal grand jury on two counts of arson and one count of wire fraud.

Coming on Saturday

Saturday's Valley Voice is going to be packed with good stuff. Even though Monday is a holiday, I plan to drop in and post some links. But if you can't wait that long, tomorrow you can check out our newly redesigned Voices web page that just pops with pictures.

The Fairfield City Council held a public hearing this week to discuss a proposal to add a 6 percent utility tax on electrical bills to help pay for street maintenance. A crowd of about 20 residents turned out, which is a large showing in a town of only 587 residents.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department arrested Anthony W. Sotin in connection with two recent arson fires. He was indicted by a Federal grand jury this week. His lengthy criminal record includes a previous conviction for arson.

Both Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake have been having problems with garage burglaries lately. Police urge people to lock up at night to foil the thieves that are apparently roaming the neighborhoods in the early morning hours looking for crimes of opportunity.

Reporter Lisa Lienberger talked to some Ness Elementary students who spent part of their day recently helping hand out food for Second Harvest at Millwood Presbyterian Church.

Flying high

Here's a look at what is happening outside our Spokane Valley office right now. Avista has been replacing power poles up and down Sprague for the last couple of weeks and today it's our turn. Don't look down!

Bits and pieces

As we look ahead to next week, Monday should be fairly quiet because of the President's Day holiday. City offices in Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake will be closed. But it is a different story on Tuesday.

Tuesday night the Liberty Lake City Council will host a retreat from 6 to 9 p.m. at City Hall, 22710 E. Country Vista Drive. They are expected to discuss city goals, including the arboretum. The East Valley School District board of directors will hold it's regular meeting at 6 p.m. at the District Administration Center, 12325 E. Grace. The board is expected to vote on whether or not to ask voters to approve a construction bond on an upcoming ballot.

The Spokane Valley City Council is back in town and ready for its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague. On the agenda is a vote on a proposed ordinance on e-cigarettes, a report on chickens in residential areas and a report on adult retail business rules.

Weekend robbery

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of a man who put a woman in a choke hold, then punched her in the face before stealing her purse and shopping bags on Sunday. The 61-year-old woman had arrived at Poppy's Tavern, 415 S. Dishman Mica Road, to open up for the day. Reporter Meghann Cuniff has more here.