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Food for library fines

If you have library fines piling up, the Spokane County Library District will reduce the amount you owe in exchange for donations of non-perishable food items for the Second Harvest Food Bank. Anytime through Saturday you can bring your donations to any library banch, including the ones in Spokane Valley, Otis Orchards, Fairfield and on Argonne Road. The library will forgive $1 in fines for each donated item up to a maximum of $10. So raid your cupboards and head to your local library, though you might want to check the living room for any overdue books you might have first.  

Plan your driving route

There will be a bunch of road construction projects underway next week that could affect your normal driving route, so you might want to start planning alternate routes. There will be sidewalk work on 24th Avenue between Adams and Sullivan between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. The project will continue through mid-May.

Park Road will be down to one lane just south of Valleway on Tuesday only. Utility work will be underway from 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Work will continue on Pines Road near Alki. Signal work will create northbound curb lane closures on Sullivan bewtween Sprague and I-90 beginning Monday.The work will be done between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.  

Today’s highlights

John Loucks, a board member with the Christian Conference Center, walks through a sanctuary overlooking Liberty Lake, near the historic Zephyr Lodge. The property may be put up for sale. SR photo/Dan Pelle

You can't go wrong with a cute cat and we've got one for you in today's Valley Voice. The students and staff at Broadway Elementary call the black and white cat Kudo, though apparently that isn't really his name. The cat lives near the school and appears twice a day to help the crossing guards as children cross the busy street. He's often out there waiting before the crossing guards get there.

The historic Zephyr Lodge on the shore of Liberty Lake may go up for sale soon. It's owned by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and there isn't enough money to run and maintain the 52 acre property that also includes a softball field, volleyball court, trails and and outdoor chapel.

The city of Spokane Valley is prepariing to adopt new maximum exemption levels that will reduce the number of proposed building projects that have to go through a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review. The new maximum will sharply increse the number of multi-family units allowed before a SEPA review is triggered.

Road work is here

It must be spring, because road work is starting in Spokane Valley. Yesterday I drove down Pines Road and stormwater improvement work has begun near Alki. Yesterday crews were working in the southbound lanes and traffic was down to one lane. After the work is complete, the giant puddle that forms in the northbound lanes whenever it rains should be a thing of the past.

Work is starting today on the Sullivan Road corridor between Sprague Ave. and I-90 and on Sprague between Sullivan and Evergreen Road. Crews will be working to install traffic management cameras and link the traffic signals together. The westbound Sprague curb lane and the northbound Sullivan curb lane are closed, so there may be more congestion than usual. The project is expect to last through mid-May and access to businesses will remain open.

Saturday’s highlights

Michelle Schimmels, special education teacher at McDonald Elementary School, works with first-grade student Cooper Brummett during recess March 29. SR photo/Dan Pelle

Good Monday morning everyone. Let's start off the week by taking a look at some highlights from Saturday's Valley Voice. Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a story in McDonald Elementary School special education teacher Michelle Schimmels, who recently received a Meritorious Service Award from the Central Valley School District after seven different people nominated her. She works with high needs children and was lauded for having a way of understanding what the children need.

Community gardens are booming in Liberty Lake. The city recently finished adding 12 raised garden beds to its garden at the arboretum. There are also 11 raised beds at Rocky Hill Park and demand has been high. The city provides everything except the seeds.

The Spokane Valley City Council had a special meeting last week with Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers. They used their time to lobby for help in getting the final bit of funding to replace the west Sullivan Bridge and to ask about moving the Bridging the Valley railroad overpass projects back to the forefront.

Thursday’s highlights

Making a scene: Quinn Johnson, who plays Bobby Strong, and Shelby Horton, who plays Hope, in the University High School drama department production of “Urinetown” perform a scene during a dress rehearsal March 29 at U-Hi. SR photo/Colin Mulvany

I was driving home yesterday when I realized I hadn't posted highlights from that day's Valley Voice. Whoops. So here we are with an entry in the "better late than never" category. The city of Spokane Valley is looking at changes to several law enforcement related contracts it has with Spokane County. Both jurisdictions are interested in making changes that will save the city money.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a story on the University High School production of "Urinetown" that opens on April 11. She also has a story on the National Geographic Bee at Pacific Lutheran University that will include several local students, including two from Spokane Valley.

Lisa did triple duty and also has a story on longtime Inland Northwest Blood Center volunteer Ernie Dieterich, who died recently. If you donated blood at the organizations' mobile donor coach, you might have seen him. He would drive the coach, hand out juice and do whatever else was needed.

Poppy’s Tavern robbery

Spokane Valley Police Cpl. Jim Wakefield assists the manager of Poppy’s Tavern up onto a sidewalk after she had her hands bound with zip ties and was robbed Wednesday morning by an armed gunman. She freed herself from the ties after about 10 minutes. SR photo/Dan Pelle

For those of you wanting more details on yesterday's armed robbery at Poppy's Tavern in Spokane Valley, reporter Tom Sowa has a story in today's paper. The manager of the bar, who has not been named by police, was reportedly tied up with zip ties before the robber made off with cash and two beers. The same woman was assaulted during a robbery at the bar in 2011. An arrest was made in that case. Click here to read Tom's story.

Last call center workers once tied to ICT Group will lose their jobs in May

The last vestige of ICT Group's once-massive call center operation is closing this spring.

Sykes Enterprises, which acquired ICT Group in 2010, has announced its laying off its last 148 Spokane Valley call center workers in late May.

At one time, ICT Group had more than 1,200 workers handling calls at the University City Mall.

After acquiring ICT Group, Sykes began making adjustments to the Spokane workforce.

In 2012, Sykes laid off about 170 workers. At that point the work group had moved out of the U-City buildings.

Sykes Enterprises spokeswoman Andrea Burnett Thomas said the decision is part of ongoing business practices, including helping clients find the right level of effective support services. Those Spokane Valley jobs are not being transferred to another city, Thomas said.

Sykes has more than 80 call centers in more than 20 countries, said Thomas.

Most of its clients are in telecommunications, financial services and tech services.

Thomas said she could not divulge details of severance packages for the Spokane Valley workers. They will be invited, she added, to apply for at-home call service contracts. Like many other call center companies, Sykes uses home-based workers who provide the same inbound or outbound calls as office workers do.

The future of Spokane Valley parks

If you missed the last public meeting on Spokane Valley's update of its Parks and Recreation Master Plan, you have one more chance. A meeting is scheuled from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place. You'll be asked to give input on what amenities should be added to current parks and where future parks should be located. If you have a yearning for a skate park or a dog park, now is the time to give the city your two cents. For more information on the master plan update, call (509) 720-5401.

Saturday’s highlights

Chloe Chalfant, 13, a seventh-grader a East Farms, raises her hand during math class on March 6. SR photo/Tyler Tjomsland

There was a bunch of news packed into Saturday's Valley Voice. First is a primer on your commuting routes this summer - a story outlining all the road construction projects coming up this year in Spokane Valley. There's also a major project planned in Liberty Lake, the installation of a roundabout at Harvard Road and Mission Ave. Major projects are also coming to Argonne Road, Sullivan Road, Pines Road and Sprague Ave.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger had a story on the SeaPerch team at North Pines Middle School. The two students built an underwater remote-operated vehicle (ROV) and won a regional contest. There are a series of fundraisers planned to send the team to the National Sea Perch Challenge in Indianapolis.

Now that Lisa is back, so is the East Farms Diary. This most recent entry focuses on discipline at the K-8 school. School staff report that older students typically don't mix with younger students and when they do, the older students are on their best behavior.

A Spokane County Superior Court Judge has ruled that the Hollywood Erotic Botique location on East Sprague in Spokane Valley is a public nuisance and in violation of the city's zoning ordinance. The court case is expected to continue, however, since the attorney representing the business owner indicated he was prepared to argue that the city's ordinance was unconstitutional.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department saw a large spike in reported firefighter injuries in 2012, but it is the result of a new focus on reporting every injury, no matter how slight. The number of arsons was also up in 2012, but that blip can be traced to an arson spree last summer than involved fires in dumpsters behind businesses.

Today’s highlights

Jerry Kienbaum talked about collecting snowmobiles for his museum in Greenacres on Monday. SR photo/Kathy Plonka

The top news in today's Valley Voice is reporter Lisa Leinberger's story on the East Valley School District's continuing transition to a K-8 education model. The district has had several meetings lately and heard emotional testimony from parents. On Tuesday they voted unanimously to moved the preschool and other special programs to East Valley Middle School in the fall.

Lisa also has a story on Spokane Valley resident Jerry Kienbaum, who has spent years amassing a collection of vintage snowmobiles. He runs the Northwest Museum of Vintage Snowmobiles.

Spokane County is planning several upgrades to the Argonne Road corridor north of the Spokane Valley city limits over the next few years, replacing pavement and adding sidewalks. The only project scheduled for this year is the replacement of the Bruce Road bridge over Deadman Creeek south of Mount Spokane Park Drive.

The Spokane Valley City Council spent some time Tuesday on how to avoid a bill of over $300,000 when new limits on the number of misdemeanor cases public defenders can handle take effect in October. That amount would be the city's share of seven new attorneys Spokane County might have to hire to help with the load. The increased cost would be charged to the city every year.

Tonight: Trails groups update region’s growing routes

OUTGOING – The Inland Northwest Trails Coalition has rounded up a dozen local leaders in trails-related efforts for the annual “state of the trails” presentations tonight (March 21) starting at 6 p.m. at Mountain Gear Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield Ave. in Spokane Valley. 

This is the place for trail users to learn where they can get involved in trail projects.

Natural areas will be covered, including the Dishman Hills, Palisades Park and Spokane County Conservation Futures areas.

The Centennial Trail, Trolley Trail and Fish Lake Trail will be reviewed as well as the expanding hiking, biking and nordic ski trail systems at Mount Spokane.

Progress on the Spokane River water trail will be updated and the Washington Trails Association will detail this season’s trails maintenance projects from Spokane County to the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.

Lunell Haught, INTC coordinator, said the consortium of outdoor recreation and conservation groups has pulled together to encourage city and county governments to engage in regional trail planning.

The group’s vision, she said, “is a system of paths, trails and open space corridors that connect neighborhoods, community and regional parks and conservation land in our region to engage people in muscle-powered recreational and conservation opportunities, promote active transportation and preserve open space to enhance our region’s quality of life.”

Today’s highlights

Former Spokane Valley Mayor Mike DeVleming pauses during an interview on March 8, at Vera Water and Power. DeVleming was Spokane Valley’s first mayor and led the new city council in marathon meetings as they put the city together from the ground up. SR photo/Tyler Tjomsland

There is a lot of news packed into today's Valley Voice, so let's get going. The city of Spokane Valley is celebrating its 10th anniversary this weekend and there's a story on the city's early history that includes the city's first mayor and a current city councilman who spent his evenings and weekends trying to get incorporation on the balllot.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a story on a very lengthy East Valley School District meeting on K-8 education this week. Parents and teachers packed the meeting room and many gave their opinions on how the district should proceed.

The Spokane Valley City Council had several highlights this week. They appointed a new planning commissioner, signed a new City Hall lease that will save the city more than $73,000 the first year and awarded the first street preservation contract of the season.

There was also a big turn out for the city's public meeting on the proposed Appleway Trail that would run between University Road and Evergreen along the old Milwaukee Railroad right of way. The trail received an enthusiastic response.

Correspondent Cindy Hval has a story on the recent Celebrating Salish Conference, which brought together people involved in keeping the Salish language alive. The language is spoken by several Native American tribes, including the Kalispel Tribe.

No coin toss this time

Last night the Spokane Valley City Council selected a new planning commissioner - land surveyor Michael Phillips. He was one of two people to apply for the vacant seat. The vote was nearly unanimous, so City Manager Mike Jackson didn't have to get out another coin to decide the issue. There were be more details on the selection in Thursday's Valley Voice.

Also in Thursday's Valley Voice, reporter Lisa Leinberger will have a report on last night's extremely lengthy East Valley School District meeting to discuss the future of K-8 schools. Lisa said the room was packed with parents, some of whom were quite emotional.

Saturday’s highlights

Jayne Singleton, director of the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, is ready to open the Grand Coulee Dam and Ice Floods exhibit. The box hanging from the ceiling denotes one cubic yard. Grand Coulee Dam contains around 12 million cubic yards of concrete. SR photo/Dan Pelle

I'm fairly certain it's Monday morning (hello, second cup of coffee), so let's look at some highlights from Saturday's Valley Voice. Reporter Nichol Hensley has a story on a new exhibit at the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum that focuses on the Grand Coulee Dam and Lake Roosevelt.

Last week Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey gave his annual State of the City speech. He compared the city to the Gonzaga University men's basketball team in that they both focus on recruiting and the basics. Citizens can be proud of the city, he said.

There's a big celebration Saturday of the 10th anniversary of the incorporation of Spokane Valley. The bash at CenterPlace will feature some history from the Spokane Valley Heritage museum and local Native American tribes as well as carnival games and birthday cake.

In sports, correspondent Steve Christilaw takes a look at this year's Central Valley High School boys soccer team. There is a strong group of freshmen this year.

Spokane Valley plans trail in city core

TRAILS — A proposed bike-pedestrian trail through the heart of Spokane Valley will be discussed at a community workshop Monday, March 11, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Spokane Valley City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague, Suite 101. 

The proposed 12-foot wide trail would run about 2.2 miles down the old Milwaukee right-of-way, between University Road and Evergreen Road and between Sprague and 4thAvenue. Future extensions would be possible.

City of Spokane Valley Public Works staff members and design planning consultants will be on hand to introduce the project, review maps, and help gather input from the community.

Info: Steve Worley, project manager, 720-5014, email sworley@spokanevalley.org.

State of the City speeches today

Mayor Tom Towey will give his annual State of the City speech twice today. The first run through is at noon in the second floor community room at the Spokane Valley Mall. The second round is at 6 p.m. at CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place.

There will be time for questions after each speech and the entire program is scheduled to last an hour, so you can pop over on your lunch hour if you want. Mayor Towey will be speaking about the city's focus on bringing new businesses to town and on improving city services.

If you can't make it to either one but are still interested in what the Mayor has to say, the presentation will be recorded and posted on the city's web site at www.spokanevalley.org

Sign code changes?

Among the topics on tonight's Spokane Valley City Council agenda is a discussion on the city's sign code, which was last changed in 2011. Recently several business owners have complained to the city that the sign regulations are negatively impacting their business. The council will discuss whether further changes to the sign code are necessary.

There are a couple of other interesting topics on the agenda, including the proposed Spokane River Public Access Plan that is being considered as part of the city's Shoreline Master Program update. The council will also talk about grant opportunities and a renegotiated City Hall lease.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. tonight at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague.

New Appleway Trail Proposed for Spokane Valley

A proposed shared use trail through the heart of the City Of Spokane Valley is the topic of a community workshop coming up on Monday, March 11 from 4:00pm to 7:00pm at City Hall (11707 E. Sprague, Suite 101).

The proposed trail would run down the old Milwaukee Right-of-Way, between University Road and Evergreen Road and between Sprague and 4th Avenue. Public Works staff members and design planning consultants will be on hand to introduce the project, review maps, and help gather input from the community.

They will be looking for feedback on the following elements:

•The alignment and location of the 12 ft. wide pathway.
•The types of landscaping desired in the surrounding Right-of-Way area.
•The location of convenient access points.
•Amenities to include such as benches, lighting, bike racks or others.
•Safe access for all.

Survival rumors for NorthTown Mall Wholesale Sports not true, manager says

March 10 seems to be a firm closing date for the two area equipment retailer Wholesale Sports locations in Spokane and in Coeur d'Alene.

An OfficeHours post last month clarified and summarized the strange set of facts behind the decision. In brief, the Canadian owner of 14 U.S. Wholesales Sports locations recently sold them to two U.S. firms. One firm, Alama Group, acquired four of the 14 and plans to close them all.  Two of those four are the ones we have here.

Rumors erupted recently that someone might find a way to resurrect or extend the stay of Wholesale Sports at NorthTown Mall. 

A store manager said don't trust the rumors. "We will close on March 10. That is our last working day," the manager said.

New Appleway Trail coming

The stretch of undeveloped land south of Sprague Avenue frontage, east of University Road, is an old railroad right-of-way that the city of Spokane Valley would like to turn into a community trail for use by pedestrians and bicyclists. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

Reporter Mike Prager has some information in his Getting There column today on the proposed Appleway Trail through the heart of Spokane Valley. The city is holding a meeting next Monday to get input on the trail, which would follow the old Milwaukee Railroad right of way between University Road and Evergreen. A section of the trail has already been built from Tschirley Road to the eastern city limits. Read his story here for more details.

Saturday’s highlights

At It’s a Soccer Life in Spokane Valley, the Spokane Shadow U13 team practices Monday. The soccer center has an enclosed turf field and a smaller futsal pitch. Weekdays at the center are usually filled with practices and weekends are packed with league play from morning until night. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

It's a sunny if somewhat nippy Monday morning out there, so lets take a look at some highlights from Saturday's Valley Voice. Correspondent Jill Barville checked out a new indoor soccer facility in the Spokane Valley Industrial Park called It's A Soccer Life. The business opened in January and hosts games and practices for area teams.

The city of Spokane Valley got some input on the future of parks in the city during a public meeting last week looking for input on the city's proposed Parks and Recreation Master Plan. A recent survey showed that local residents are most interested in urban trails, splash pads, outdoor aquatic facilities and indoor recreation facilities.

Reporter Nicole Hensley has a story on the newest West Valley School District board member Adam Mortensen, a 1997 West Valley High School graduate. Richard Chan, husband of longtime Front Porch columnist Deborah Chan, has a column about how he has been dealing with his wife's cancer diagnosis and treatment.

The Spokane Valley City Council spent more than two hours talking about the future of trash in the city during their daylong winter retreat last week. They have teamed up with Spokane County to do a study on the costs of various disposal options in the future.  

Family Room Tour

Award winning musician and author Jim Gill will present a free performance of his Family Room Tour at 11 a.m. Saturday at CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place. Gill plays the banjo and creates musical games that encourage the audience to clap, sing, dance and even sneeze along.

Gill is a child development specialist and focuses on connections between music, literacy and early childhood development. The performance is free, so this should be a good way to get the kids out of the house and get them moving.

Benches stolen from Saltese Cemetery

The caretakers of Saltese Cemetery are looking for missing benches that are similar to these sculpted by Concrete Works, a Spokane Valley company. Photo courtesy of Concrete Works.

Apparently two benches featuring decorative rabbits have turned up missing from the Saltese Cemetery. The benches had been inside a gazebo. The benches had been purchased about 10 years ago as a nod to the wild rabbits that regularly hop throughout the cemetery. Anyone who has information on where the benches are located is asked to call Mary and Bill Cabbage at (509) 926-0895. There is a reward for their return. Click here for more details.

Park planning meeting

A farm- themed play structure and a splash pad grace Greenacres Park. SR file photo.

The Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation Department is hosting a public meeting tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. at CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place, to talk about updates to its Parks and Recreation Master Plan. People are invited to come and give their input on what new parks or new elements they would like to see. This is your chance to make a pitch for a dog park, an Olympic sized swimming pool or whatever else you think is needed.  

SCOPE honored by Spokane Valley Mayor

Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey gave SCOPE a certificate of appreciation and a key to the city at last night's city council meeting as part of his monthly community recognition award program. The director of SCOPE, Rick Scott, was there to receive the award on behalf of the organization's 600 volunteers and crack a couple of jokes. The room was packed with SCOPE volunteers and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich came out for the occasion.

You can see my story on the council meeting in Thursday's Valley Voice, which will include the SCOPE award as well as the council's discussion on this year's road construction projects.  

True or false

These gentlemen were instrumental in the drive to incorporate Spokane Valley years ago.

www.cmt.com

Bettman Road project meeting tonight

The city of Spokane Valley is hosting a public meeting tonight to talk about a planned stormwater project along the east side of Bittman Road and Dickey Street between 11th and 14th Avenues this summer. The meeting will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Park Place Assisted Living, 511 S. Park Road. The project calls for swales, installing underground pipes and possibly removing some landscaping in the public right of way. Call (509) 720-5013 for more details on the project.

Today’s highlights

Liberty Lake Police Officer Jeff Jones. SR photo/Colin Mulvany

Another Thursday means more Valley Voice highlights to look over. The Spokane Valley City Council had to turn to a coin toss this week in selecting a new council member after three tie votes. Rod Higgins, who has served on the city's planning commission for the last year, won the toss and was sworn in as the newest council member.

There's a new police officer on patrol in Liberty Lake. Officer Jeff Jones joined the police department in January after working as a Pend Oreille County sheriff's deputy for eight years. He's adjusting to a busier pace and a much shorter distance between calls.

Reporter Nicole Hensley has a story on a flyer the Citizens for Responsible Taxation has sent out opposing the East Valley School District bond. The school district says the information on the flyer is incorrect. The group has opposed school bonds and levys throughout the county in recent years.

Saturday’s highlights

Christina Humrich, Kaylie Maresh, Sarah Wu, Rachael Radavich and Janne Kaschnitter participate during class time in Company Ballet School’s old dance studio on Jan 23. An additional dance space is under construction. SR photo/Dan Pelle

We managed to pack a bunch of news into Saturday's Valley Voice, so let's get on to some highlights. Neighbors in the area of Sprague Ave. and Hodges Road are unhappy with a proposed development called Covey Glen North that would put 46 homes on 8.57 acres. They voiced their displeasure at a hearing before the Spokane Valley Hearing Examiner last week.

Correspondent Valerie Putnam has a story on the expansion of the Company Ballet School in Millwood. The school is adding new space that will be used to offer classes to adults and children. Reporter Nicole Hensley takes a look at a series of Spokane Valley history talks being offered by the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum and the Spokane Valley Library. The first talk is set for Wednesday.

Nicole also has information on a new Spokane County Library District plan to give every middle school student a library card that can be used online or at the library.

Wilma Turner, the owner of Iron Horse Kennel in Newman Lake, has appealed the decision by SCRAPS to not renew her commercial kennel license after repeated inspection failures. A hearing was held last week and there could be a recommendation as soon as this week. The Spokane County Commissioners will have the final say.