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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.

Bits and pieces

There was some excitement after I left work last night. An armed man robbed the Dollar Tree store at 9211 E. Montgomery at 7:20 p.m. Witnessess said they saw him loitering around the front of the store for quite some time before he did the deed. Click here for more information, including a description.  

Reporter Jody Lawrence-Turner has a story today on why the local bonds failed, including one for the Central Valley School District. Theories include the economy and vote by mail. See more from Central Valley Superintendent Ben Small here.

Packed planning commission meeting tomorrow

I'm back at the keyboard after a long day spent with the Spokane Valley City Council in various meetings yesterday. You'll see my story on the regular city council meeting in Thursday's Valley Voice and the story on the council retreat will be in on Saturday.

For those of you that haven't checked the paper yet, some people in Central Valley are unhappy today after yesterday's bond election failed. Several reporters, including the Valley's own Lisa Leinberger, collaborated on a story in today's paper on the various bond and levy elections.

Now then, on to business. The Spokane Valley Planning Comission is meeting tomorrow night at 6 p.m. in City Hall (11707 E. Sprague) and the agenda is packed with items that may draw some interest. There will be more discussion on adult retail entertainment plus a public hearing on possible changes to the city code regarding the keeping of chickens. There will also be a study session on the annual Comprehensive Plan amendments. The comp plan can only be amended once a year and this year the entire Sprague/Appleway Revitalization Plan is up for elimination.

Furry hitchhiker on her way home

A truck driver who arrived at the Spokane Valley Target warehouse this week with a shipment from Albany, Ore., didn't realize he had an unauthorized passenger in the back. When he opened the door to unload, a cat dashed out and hid from workers, who called SCRAPS for help.

The cat was caught and taken to SCRAPS, which contacted the Albany Herald in the hopes of finding the owner, according to SCRAPS press release. Against all odds the owner was located and today the cat is leaving town for the trip back to Albany. This time, she gets to ride in front. Photo courtesy of SCRAPS.

The right way to report a pothole

It's confession time. When I wrote up a brief for the Saturday Valley Voice on how to report a pothole in Spokane Valley over the internet, I somehow managed to misspell “Spokane” in the web address. Tired fingers? I don't know. We'll run it again on Thursday, but if you have a giant pothole you're just itching to report, click here. Then click on the “report a problem” link on the left side of the page and select “report a pothole.” Don't forget to be very specific about the pothole's location.

Senate candidate arrested

Olympia reporter Jim Camden has a story in today's paper (which is also getting a lot of comments online) about the arrest of Roy Murry in Las Vegas for carrying a concealed weapon this week. Murry is one of the three men the Spokane County Commissioners are considering to replace former Spokane Valley senator Bob McCaslin, who recently retired from the state legislature after 30 years due to health reasons.

According to Jim's story, Murry is disputing the police report and said he won't withdraw his name from consideration for the senate seat. The police report states that Murry was carrying a semi-automatic handgun, two knives, two ammunition clips and loose rounds.

The Commissioners are currently conducting background checks on all three candidates, including state Rep. Matt Shea and GOP legislative district leader Jeff Baxter.

Spokane Valley wildlife

Over the years Spokane Valley has become more and more urban. Sometimes we forget that there really is a lot of wildlife out there if we just look. Spokesman-Review photographer Jesse Tinsley spotted this beaver swimming in the Spokane River near the Barker Road bridge yestersday. Has anyone seen any signs of beaver activity in that area?

Coming soon to a park near you

Every summer the City of Spokane Valley shows free movies in Mirabeau Park. You have until Tuesday to vote on which ones you would like shown this summer. There are two categories: family choice and teen choice. Viewing dates are July 23 and August 20 (pray for no rain).

The options for family choice are: “Despicable Me,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Megamind,” “Secretariat” and “Toy Story 3.” The options for teen choice are: “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” “Labyrinth,” “The Last Airbender,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” and “The Sorcerer's Apprentice.” If the teen girls get out the vote, I'm betting that “Eclipse” will win that second categoy.

You can either vote in person at CenterPlace (2426 N. Discovery Place) or online here. If you don't like any of the choices, you can write in your favorite movie. The deadline is Tuesday, so don't waste any time.

Falco’s open for business

The phones have been abuzz this morning with rumors that Falco's in Spokane Valley was closing. This is thanks to an ad in today's paper (page A2 if you want to look). The problem is, the ad says its a “going out for business sale” (emphasis mine). Grant Falco wrote on his Facebook page that the ad was just a play on words and the longtime Valley business is there to stay. “This was our simple way of trying to create a little buzz,” he wrote.  I'd say it worked.

Talking trash

There's nothing particularly fascinating about trash, but it's something that has to be dealt with. Reporter John Craig has a story in today's paper about the ongoing dispute between local governments about what happens next for the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System. There are arguments over who will own and operate the Waste to Engergy Plant, who will have a say in the decision making and how much customers will be charged to dispose of waste.

A Solid Waste Summit is scheduled for Feb. 2 and 3. Elected representatives from every jurisdiction in Spokane County are expected to attend, including the Spokane Valley city council members. Spokane Valley could have a key role to play in what happens depending on what the council members decide to do. It doesn't sound like this issue will go away any time soon, so take a look at John's story to learn more about the issue.

Freeway a sheet of ice

That rain falling out there has turned I-90 and most other roads into a sheet of ice. On my way into the office most people were being sensible and driving slowly, except one man who zipped who past me in the left lane. A few seconds later he was sliding sideways across four lanes of traffic, narrowly missing several cars. He only stopped, facing the wrong way, when he hit the concrete barrier that marks the edge of that section of freeway.

I saw numerous cars on the side of the freeway that were sideways or facing the wrong way. The DOT freeway cameras show numerous blockages, including a sideways semi near Park Road. Since I got in the office the scanner has had a continuous stream of accidents and slide offs. The Spokane County Sheriff's Office has even put out a press release asking people not to drive right now. Everyone please be very careful out there.

11:30 a.m. update: The scanner has calmed down considerably and things seem to be getting better out there. The Washington State Patrol is reporting that they responded to 45 accidents between 7:45 and 9:45 a.m. in Spokane and Lincoln Counties.

Slip sliding away

A state trooper checks out a slide off in the median near Barker Road this morning on I-90. Snow was falling heavily in North Idaho and eastern Spokane Valley Thursday morning. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

There have been a steady stream of accidents all day on the scanner. Even though the dusting of snow doesn't look like much, it is proving to be quite slippery. There have been numerous accidents on the freeway, a car plowed into a fence this morning at 32nd and Pierce and earlier someone slipped and fell on the ice at Fourth and Bowdish and broke a kneecap. Everyone use extra caution out there.

McCaslin recovering after leg amputated

Olympia reporter Jim Camden is reporting that Spokane Valley city councilman and former state senator Bob McCaslin had a leg amputated yesterday after being hospitalized with circulatory problems since last week. The hospital says he is in satisfactory condition. Click here for more information and here for a previous story with details on his recent health issues.

Robbery reported on Woodruff

A resident in the 3900 block of South Woodruff just called police to report that two men wearing ski masks pointed a gun at him and demanded cash when he pulled into his garage. He told dispatch that two white men got into a dark colored passenger car and headed south on Woodruff. Officers are heading into the area.

Filling McCaslin’s Senate seat a trial

There is apparently a bit of a storm brewing around the appointment of a replacement for Spokane Valley City Councilman Bob McCaslin, who resigned his seat in the State Senate earlier this month for health reasons. Olympia reporter Jim Camden has an interesting report this morning on delays in the nominating process. There are a couple of unexpected names on the list of people who would like to fill the Senate seat: former Spokane Valley Mayor Diana Wilhite, who worked on McCaslin's first senate campaign, and Liberty Lake Mayor Wendy Van Orman.

Planning Commission meeting tonight

The Spokane Valley Planning Commission will host its first meeting with two new comissioners at 6 p.m. tonight at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague. Only one item is on the agenda: a public hearing on a proposed code text amendment to tweak the definition of adult entertainment retail businesses. You can find the current meeting agenda and attached documents on the city's web site here.

Winter driving

The scanner is strangely quiet this morning. There doesn't seem to be a lot of accidents at the moment, but the hills are a bit dicey. If you were planning to head into Spokane, you might want to find a route other than I-90. The westbound lanes look like a parking lot west of Havana because of a major accident near the Maple exit. Other than that, just be careful out there.

11 a.m. update: The roads are a lot worse now than they were at 7 a.m. Roads and parking lots that were plowed early this morning now look like they haven't seen a plow blade in days. And you end up doing more sliding than steering on corners. I heard something on the scanner about a semi backing down on hill it couldn't make it up, possibly on Forker Road. At least I-90 is flowing smoothly again. For now.

Burglary 101

Lesson number one for the successful burglar: Don't break into a business when two police officers are watching you.

Lesson number two: Don't do anything criminal when there is a nice blanket of fresh snow to perfectly preserve your footprints.

Lesson number three: Don't tell the police you can't get out of the car because your seat belt is broken. That won't work. And then you'll have to buy a new seat belt.

Reporter Meghann Cuniff has a little something on a man who did not know those three things before, but he knows them now.

McCaslin to keep council seat

Spokane Valley City Councilman Bob McCaslin confirmed at last night's meeting that he will keep his council seat even as he resigns from the Washington State Senate for health reasons. He said he has been diagnosed with a bone morrow disorder that prevents him from producing enough red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Myelodysplastic syndrome is also known as pre-leukemia. Click here for a story by Olympia reporter Jim Camdem that I contributed a little to.

McCaslin to leave Senate

Washington State Senator and Spokane Valley City Councilman Bob McCaslin has reportedly announced that he is resigning his Senate seat for health reasons. McCaslin has had several heath issues and hospitalizations in the last year. The Spokesman-Review reporter in Olympia, Jim Camden, is working on getting more details. McCaslin was first elected in 1981.

Memorial service set for former Spokane Valley mayor

A public memorial service for former Spokane Valley mayor Rich Munson will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place, according to an email from city councilman Bill Gothmann. Munson, 68, died on New Year's Day from complications of leukemia.

Current mayor Tom Towey announced today that the City of Spokane Valley will fly its flags at half staff Tuesday through Sunday in Munson's honor. Towey will read a proclamation declaring the observance at Tuesday's city council meeting.

Towey said he had no idea Munson was so ill. “Rich was a visionary,” he said. “We need more visionaries like him in our community.”

Funeral pending for former Spokane Valley mayor

Spokane Valley Mayor Rich Munson approaches the podium to speak at a press conference at the state line Friday, Aug. 21, 2009. A press conference was called by government and law enforcement officials and human rights organizers in Washington and Idaho to speak to the recent distribution of racist flyers. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

Former Spokane Valley mayor Rich Munson died on New Year's Day from complications of leukemia, only a year after he left office. He had been heavily involved in the city since incorporation and was very passionate about his time on the council and as mayor. Reporter Rebecca Nappi spoke to family members and colleagues for a story in today's paper. Funeral arrangements are pending and more information may be available later today. 

Coming on Saturday

Here's a few tidbits you can check out in Saturday's Valley Voice. The Spokane Valley City Council reversed themselves on the items they want to support at the 2011 Washington legislative session, despite having voted to approve them in October.

As the calendar rolls over to 2011, Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey is marking the end of his first year as mayor. We'll take a look at how he and others think it has gone. Plus, the Liberty Lake Police Department is celebrating the fact that it will get two new police cars in 2011 to replace aging, high mileage cruisers. The department has had to do without new cars for a couple years now.

There will be other nuggets in the pages. Make sure you grab a copy and take a look.

Holiday notes

Expect light posting the rest of the week, as I will be at home relaxing in my recliner again - provided I can manage to get home safely this afternoon. I'll poke my head in once or twice, but there won't much up on blog. Happy new year!

Roads are slipping

The scanner is beginning to hum with a steady stream of accidents caused by the weather, so be careful out there. Sullivan Road near the freeway is currently backed up because of a truck on fire. Drive safely!

2:47 p.m. update: Bigelow Gulch Road sounds particularly bad. A deputy said he has cars all over the ditch up there. It would probably be a good idea to avoid that area.

3:37 p.m. update: It tooks like northbound traffic on Argonne Road is completely shut down just north of Upriver Drive. There have been multiple accidents on the hill.

Saturday’s highlights

Members of the extended  Hughes family pose for a Christmas portrait in Spokane Valley. From left are  Cohen, 1, Mary, Andrew and Tula Hughes, 2 ; Sam, 8, Nichole,  Max, 11, and Matthew Bergam;  Janice Hughes stands beside her husband, Steve; Ian Hughes, far right, and his son, Hayden, 10, in front. The families recently purchased new homes with three of them swapping homes with other family members. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak.

There was a lot to see in Saturday's Valley Voice. The Hughes family did a four-way house swap among themselves, buying each other's houses one after the other. Spokane Valley city councilman Dean Grafos has been advocating putting a city hall near CenterPlace in the future, but city staff has to check and see if that's possible to do on the land donated for a community center and park.

The Liberty Lake City Council finally passed its 2011 budget with a unanimous vote. Painful cuts were averted, but there was considerable discussion on combining the golf course superintendent and park superintendent positions. Plus the Spokane Valley Fire Department is nearly ready to award a bid for construction of a new administration building.

Countdown to March

Merry early Christmas: Five Guys Burgers and Fries should open at 10 N. Sullivan in Spokane Valley in March. It will be the second location of the popular national chain to open in the area and franchise owner Wayne Sheffield also plans to open one on Spokane's north side, too. There's only one question left. Should I be there right when it opens, napkin in hand, or wait a week or so for the feeding frenzy to die down? Click here for more details and scroll down. 

Coming on Saturday

We've got a bunch of good stuff coming up in Saturday's Valley Voice. The Liberty Lake city council passed their 2011 budget this week. A lot of proposed cuts were washed away at the last minute thanks to some revenue changes. The golf pro is back, the library will be open as usual and the police department is getting a new car.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department is preparing to award a construction contract to build a new administration building next to Station 8 on Wilbur and do some repair and remodeling work at the training tower at Sullivan and Marietta. Spokane Valley city councilman Dean Grafos has been advocating building a city hall on land the city owns near CenterPlace and a preliminary evaluation suggests it would be feasible.

One scheduling note for next week: the Central Valley School District board meeting usually held on the fourth Monday of the month has been cancelled.

Five Guys in Spokane Valley?

Some work is going on at 10 N. Sullivan at the site of an old Hollywood Video store next to Petco. A check of the online Washington State business license directory shows that Montana Burgers Inc. applied for a business license at that location this month under the name Five Guys Burgers and Fries. A franchise of the national chain opened on Spokane's South Hill this year and people have been raving about their food. I'm sure fans of the business will be eagerly watching this location in the coming weeks. 

Saturday’s highlights

Spokane Valley Heritage Museum volunteers Herman Meier and Al Shrock get a hand from Don Gorman covering the sign to protect it from deteriorating. The museum hopes to raise $10,000 to restore the original 1912 scroll sign above the entrance to the historic Opportunity Township Hall. SR photo/Bart Rayniak 

I hope everyone out there is safe and sound this morning, what with all the accident reports on the scanner. I always say that when the roads are nasty there is no shame in creeping along (particularly since I nearly impaled my car on my concrete retaining wall yesterday).

So, on to the highlights from Saturday’s Valley Voice. The Spokane Valley Heritage Museum is raising money to restore the nearly 100-year old historic scroll sign on the front of the historic building that houses the museum. Volunteers recently covered the sign with black plastic to slow the deterioration.

The second story on the Spokane Valley City Council meeting included a variety of discussions and decisions. Longtime volunteer and Valleyfest organizer Peggy Doering nearly lost her seat on the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee after an unexpected push to replace her. The renewal of the city’s street maintenance contract was narrowly approved after it hit a speed bump. The council also discussed whether to raise stormwater fees or allow Spokane County to raise sewer rates, since one of the fees will have to go up.

Parents in the Central Valley School District should note that the school board has approved new elementary school attendance boundaries in Liberty Lake and Greenacres that will take effect if a bond that would pay for a new elementary school (plus other projects) is approved by voters in the spring.