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Blimp flight in Spokane Valley

No, the aliens have not landed. No, it's not a government surveillance drone. When I heard a blimp was going to be in the air Wednesday in Spokane Valley, I was naturally expecting something large like the Goodyear blimp. But it's not. Crews wil be operating a 15-foot long blue and white blimp next to the Sullivan Bridge sometime Wednesday afternoon for two hours to get a good look at the bridge.

The blimp will be tethered to an operator on the ground, who will move the blimp around and use the camera equipment installed on it to take pictures of the bridge. The project is being organized by CH2M Hill, which has a contract with the City of Spokane Valley to build a replacement for the west bridge that currently carries southbound traffic.

Just remember, pull over and park if you want to watch the blimp's flight. Don't try to do it while you're driving. There are parking lots nearby. 

No council meeting tonight

Tonight you can grab a drink (with or without an umbrella) and kick your feet up: there is no Spokane Valley City Council meeting. The agenda was looking pretty bare so it was cancelled. So everyone stay home and save your energy for next Tuesday.

Ruling stands: Coyote Rock docks are illegal

A dock sits below Coyote Rock development in May 2012 just after the Washington State Court of Appeals ruled that docks installed at the development were illegal. SR file photo

The Washington State Supremen Court has declined to review a Court of Appeals decision that ruled the two docks installed by a developer in the Coyote Rock development on the Spokane River are illegal. The appeals court said that shoreline exemptions can only be used by homeowners, not a developer building a spec home. This ends, for now at least, the long debate over the legaility of the docks. I'll keep an eye on what happens next. Look for a story on the issue in Friday's paper. 

New Spokane Valley Walmart store will open on Oct. 17

Ready for a little more Walmart?

Wal-Mart Stores will open its second Spokane Valley location on Oct. 17. That's next Wednesday.

The new store, on East Sprague, is east west of the Costco store on Sprague.

It plans to have roughly 350 full- and part-time workers, according to a company news release.
The average wage for full-time hourly workers is $13 per hour,  the company said.

It will have 148,000 square feet of space and will be open 24 hours a day.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony at 7:30 a.m. will open the store, followed by checks handed out to a number of local groups, including Greater Spokane Meals on Wheels and Spokane Valley Partners.

Metal thieves on the prowl

Metal thieves have been busy in the Spokane Valley area lately. Spokesman-Review reporter Nicole Hensley has detals on two recent thefts. On Monday a heavy truck salvage yard reported the theft of 27 semi wheels. Apparently each of the wheels weighs 60 pounds. It makes one wonder if they needed a semi to haul it all away. Click here for more details.

Thieves also stole metal roofing destined for the construction of the new Dick's Sporting Goods store at the Spokane Valley Mall. The metal was also stolen Monday. (For all Dick's Sporting Goods fans, the store is scheduled to open Nov. 9.) Click here for more details.

Fireman Fired For Religious Emails

The Spokane Valley Fire Department on Monday fired a captain who continued to send religious emails from his department email account despite numerous orders to stop. Capt. Jon Sprague (pictured in SR file photo by Tyler Tjomsland), who runs the Spokane County Christian Firefighter Fellowship, has been disciplined several times for sending the emails. This year, he received a letter of counseling, a letter of reprimand and a second letter of reprimand with a suspension of two 24-hour shifts without pay before the Spokane Valley Board of Fire Commissioners voted unanimously to fire him. Sprague sends out emails using the department’s email system to a group of firefighters who have agreed to receive them. He has emphasized that he is not proselytizing and said he believes sending the emails is his First Amendment right/Nina Culver, SR. More here.

Question: Is Capt. Jon Sprague of the Spokane Valley Fire Department being persecuted and denied his First Amendment rights? Or properly disciplined for not heeding repeated warnings to stop using department emails to send religious material?

Section of Mission Ave. to close Thursday

The city of Spokane Valley has announced that it will close the eastbound lane of Mission Ave. between Union Road and Bowdish road for paving on Thursday beginning at 7 a.m. Eastbound traffic will be detoured to Broadway Ave. via Bowdish. The paving project is expected to be complete by 7 p.m.

Pines Road down to one lane south of 16th

Pines Road will be down to a single lane of traffic between 16th and 24th during a sidewalk infill project that is expected to start today or Tuesday. Flaggers will be there to direct traffic through the work zone, but it would probably be faster to find another route. Pedestrians will be allowed on the west side of the street only. The project is expected to last six weeks.

Kicked door nets man burglary charge

In what appears to be a case of she said/he ran, Spokane Valley Sheriff’s deputies arrested a 50-year-old man who was accused Thursday of breaking into a woman’s home.

Deputies, who are contracted to provide police service in Spokane Valley, responded at about 11 a.m. on Thursday to the area of 6800 E. 8th Ave. to a report of a burglary in progress.

The female homeowner said that Kevin Bunch, 50, had kicked in the back door of her residence and remained in her home. Deputies went to check and saw Bunch running westbound on 8th Avenue away from the home, sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin said.

The deputies set up a containment area and searched with a police dog. They found Bunch hiding between a fence and nearby house and took him into custody, Chamberlin wrote in a news release.

“Bunch told deputies he and the victim were in a relationship, which the victim said was not true whatsoever,” Chamberlin wrote.

Bunch was booked into the Spokane County Jail on the charge of residential burglary.

Fancher closed Saturday night

Fancher Road will be completely closed this weekend from 7 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday between Sprague Ave. and Broadway Ave. for paving. Drivers can use Havana as an alternate route.

Shoreline public hearing tonight

The Spokane Valley Planning Commission is having a public hearing tonight on the proposed shoreline environmental designations. The city is currently making its way through a state mandated update of its Shoreline Master Program and the environmental designations are a piece of that plan. This is your chance to come and comment on the proposed designations. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague.

Today’s highlights

Spokane Valley Councilman Ben Wick, his wife Danica and daughter Sabriel, 3 months, arrive at the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum for the celebration of the centennial of its building, the former Opportunity Township Hall, last Thursday. SR photo/Colin Mulvany

There are a lot of good stories to be had in today's Valley Voice, so let's get started. Reporter Lisa Leinberger stopped by the 100th anniversary celebration of Opportunity Township Hall last week. The Hall now houses the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum. The museum is also getting ready to host its annual history tour on Oct. 6.

The construction of the Spokane Valley Fire Department's Station 6 has hit another snag. Representatives of the department say there have been numerous design problems that have led to delays and construction is reaching a critical point. If the alsphalt isn't put in before it gets too cold the department can't move in.

The Spokane Valley City Council voted Tuesday to not raise 2013 property taxes by the allowed 1 percent, saying this just isn't the time to raise taxes even though the vote means residential property owners will only save 76 cents per year.

The Central Valley School District is taking a look at whether it should continue it's pay-to-play policy, Lisa reports. The school board is taking a look at how much playing sports costs and whether the fees have impacted how many students sign up.

A jail near you?

In case you missed it, here's Mike Prager's story today about the sites under consideration for a new Spokane County Jail. One of the proposed locations that apparently is near the top of the list is property the County owns north of Euclid Ave. and east of Tschirley Road. The land is inside the Spokane Valley City limits. Reportedly the County Commissioners are looking at proposed sites again so they can consider a new potential site near the Spokane Airport, but the Spokane Valley spot is still in the mix. There's a public hearing on the issue today at 5:30 p.m. in the lower level of the Public Works Building at 1026 W. Broadway. Read Mike's story for more details.

Budget, property tax on agenda

There are a few interesting topics on the agenda for tonight's Spokane Valley City Council meeting, including a public hearing on the proposed 2013 budget and the first reading of the ordinance to set the 2013 property tax. If you have comments to make about how the city plans to spend its money, now is your chance. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague.

The council is also scheduled to vote on how much money to award to the economic development and social service agencies that requested funding. There is also a vote scheduled on an interlocal agreement with the Spokane County Library District that would cover the purchase of property on Sprague Avenue for a library and proposed park expansion.

Valleyfest pictures

Gabe Kerschner, with “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” carries a 6-foot North American alligator on stage at Valleyfest. SR photo/Colin Mulvany

Spokesman-Review reporter Chelsea Bannach and photographer Colin Mulvany stopped by Valleyfest on Saturday. Colin put together a nice slide show of pictures of the annual event to go with the story. Here's your chance for a second look if you missed it in Sunday's paper.

Valleyfest is here

Festive air: Hot air balloons lift off from CenterPlace Event Center at dawn in 2011 as part of Balloons Over Valleyfest. A balloon named “Spuds,” operated by Stephanie Hughes, of Spokane, is being filled as another lifts off toward the east. SR file photo

Wait no more, Valleyfest is here. The annual festival has been steadily growing and this year is no different. Today's main event is the Hearts of Gold parade down Sprague Avenue at 7:30 p.m. This, of course, means Sprague Avenue will be shut down. The section between University and Bowdish will close at 5:45 p.m. so the floats and marching bands can line up. The section of Sprague between Pines and Bowdish will shut down at 7 p.m. The parade will start around Gillis Road and head east. Go early to get prime seats.

Saturday's events start with the 6:35 a.m. launch of hot air balloons from the CenterPlace west lawn (2426 N. Discovery Place). Next up is the pancake breakfast from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at CenterPlace. The cost is $7 for adults, $6 for children ages 3-6 and free for kids 2 and under. The main festivities in Mirabeau Park start at 10 a.m. I'd be here all day if I listed every event happening, so I'll just hit the highlights. There will be vendors, food, a car show, live entertainment, Babyfest, fishing at the falls, a walk to benefit Down Syndrome and lots more.

Sunday's events include Responsible Dog Ownership Day, a walk and bike ride on the Centennial Trail and more live entertainment. The full schedule is available at www.valleyfest.org.

If you are wondering where to park, there will be an STA shuttle running from parking lots at the Spokane Valley Mall and the Pinecroft Business Park at Mirabeau Parkway and Pines Road for 75 cents. Look for the special Valleyfest shuttle signs. The buses will stop at CenterPlace and Mirabeau Park.

Spokane Valley Solon Fills Clark Void

Matt Shea – the Road Rage Republican running for re-election in Spokane Valley – has his knickers in a knot over his opponent’s supposedly dirty campaign tactics. Or in other words … “Hello, Kettle. Pot calling.” You know, I was really bummed a few months ago. Spokane’s perennial loser candidate Barb Lampert said she wouldn’t be running for office. It was unimaginable. We were about to have the first Lampert-free ballot since the forming of the League of Nations. Prayer seemed like the only option. Is anyone out there, I beseeched the heavens, who could fill the insanity void left by a Barbless election? The heavens answered, and along came Rep. Matt Dillon, I mean Rep. Matt Shea. Sorry for the confusion. I sometimes have to remind myself. Matt Dillon was the pistol-packing marshal on the old “Gunsmoke” TV show. Shea’s that pistol-packing pickup driver who pulled his gat during a road rage incident with another motorist last November in downtown Spokane/Doug Clark, SR. More here.

Question: Which legislators or legislative candidates in North Idaho amuse you more than the others?

Road construction explosion

The city of Spokane Valley has put out a flurry of press releases this week announcing a whole bunch of road construction projects coming up as they try to finish as much as they can before the weather gets too cold. The good news is, most of the projects are small and won't cause much of a disruption. So, here we go.

Crews are expected to be working on Argonne Road between Indiana and Trent next week. The work will take place at night and all lanes will be open during the day. There will be one lane of traffic in each direction between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. The project should last about a week.

Sands Road between Bowdish and Bates will be closed from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday for a community service project at the cemetery. On Monday there will be work on Carnahan Road between 16th and Kahuna that will leave only a single lane open.

Work is expected to start next week on Fancher Road between Sprague and Broadway. Traffic will be limited to one lane in each direction. The project is expected to last until early October. The stormwater swales on the south side of Sprague Avenue will be getting some improvements between Park Road and Thierman Road. Road work is included in the project, which should last until late October.

Work on University Road between Union and Main is continuing and should be completed by early October. The planned start to resurface Mission Ave. between Union and Pines Road has been postponed to late September or early October.

That's where things stand right now, but road construction is somewhat famous for its unpredictability.

Today’s highlights

Remembering the fallen, looking toward the future: The Spokane Valley Fire Department continued its tradition Tuesday of honoring the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by dedicating buildings under construction. Members of the Spokane Valley Fire Department honor guard, including, from left, Greg Bennett, fire inspector, Dave Vegele, engineer/paramedic, and Michael Fields, firefighter, participated in Tuesday morning’s flag raising at Station 6. SR photo/Colin Mulvany

There's a bunch of news packed into today's Valley Voice. Local 876 of the International Association of Fire Fighters has filed a challenge to the voter registration of Spokane Valley Fire Department commissioner Monte Nesbitt. Nesbitt, who has announced he will resign at the end of the year, said he now lives in Cheney but remains registered to vote in Spokane Valley.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger has some student numbers for the Central Valley School District, which has a lot more students in the classrooms than it expected. They've had to get a little creative at some schools to handle it. The Spokane Valley City Council had another review of the proposed 2013 budget and expressed some hestitation about some changes, including how street preservation is funded and how much of an ending fund balance to have.

A thief in Liberty Lake who went as far as removing tires and wheels in preparation for making off with them apparently changed his or her mind and left them behind, along with a message written in dust on a car window. The thief was uncommonly organized and tidy.

Teen driving event this weekend

Teen drivers are invited to participate in a safe driving event Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the University City Parking lot at 10200 E. Sprague in Spokane Valley. Teens can complete an obstacle course while trying to avoid distractions or use impaired vision goggles. The local high school who has the most teens register for the free event will be awarded $500. There will also be food, music and appearances by former Gonzaga basketball players and Spokane Shock cheerleaders.

The event is one of 300 being held around the country sponsoed by State Farm Insurance. The Spokane Valley event is being held in partnership with the Spokane Valley Police Department. More information is available at www.facebook.com/celebratemydrive.

Saturday’s highlights

After receiving a delivery of 30 children’s bicycles from the Bike Hub, Micah Reed, 10, and other Broadway Elementary School students test out the bikes during Central Valley School District’s Elementary Bicycle Safety Program at Broadway, Aug. 30. The school’s PE teacher, Katie Ferris, secured a grant for $6,100 from SpokeFest to purchase the bikes. SR photo/Dan Pelle

I'm pretty sure it's Monday again, though my internal calendar will be off all week since I worked yesterday. Now that we've shaken off the Monday morning cobwebs through generous amounts of coffee, it's time to take a look at Saturday's Valley Voice.

The city of Spokane Valley has a new public works director, Eric Guth. He'll probably be able to handle complaints about potholes and snow plowing easily, since his last job saw him dodging rocket attacks in Afghanistan.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger checked out a bicycle safety program offered by Central Valley School District. The district got a grant from SpokeFest to buy 30 bikes and helmets and will visit every fourth and fifth grade class this year.

The Spokane Valley City Council had a lenghty discussion on a proposed one percent property tax increase in 2013 that would cost each homeowner $1.20 per year. Several council members are against it, so it looks like at some point there will be a vote on whether to approve the increase.

The Spokane Valley Fire Deparment is looking over its proposed 2013 budget, which is projected to be lower than the 2012. That's in large part because there are no construction projects planned for next year. Employees will get small raises after agreeing to a wage freeze in 2012.

Providence expanding into Spokane Valley

Spokesman-Review reporter John Stucke has a story in today's paper about Providence Health Care's plans to build a $58 million medical campus in Spokane Valley. The campus would include an outpatient surgery center and doctor offices. The center, which is scheduled to open in 2014, would be located along I-90 east of Sullivan Road. Read John's story here for more details.

Saturday’s highlights

Rob Bockemuehl cleans around a water valve as a road grader prepares the intersection of 24th Avenue and Evergreen Road for paving, Aug. 27. SR photo/Dane Pelle.

Today may be the first day of school for many, but it is also the day to get caught up on some highlights from Saturday's Valley Voice. Some major Spokane Valley road construction projects are wrapping up, much to the relief of drivers. There are still a few small projects coming up, but none will last longer than two weeks.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger stopped by the groundbreaking for the new Spokane Valley Tech skills center in the old Rite Aid at University and Sprague. The building was purchased by the Central Valley School District for a new skills center, but it will also be used by the West Valley, East Valley and Freeman school districts.

The annual Valleyfest event is fast approaching and there are several new things coming during this year's three day festival. The new items include discounts and coupons at local businesses, a new walk benefitting Down Syndrome research and Babyfest.

Paws in the Pool photos

SR photographer Jesse Tinsley has posted a great photo story from last night's first ever Paws in the Pool dog swim event at Valley Mission Pool. It looks like the dogs were having a lot of fun. Parks and Recreation Director Mike Stone told me this morning that the inaugural event was a great success and will be back next year. Swim on, Fido, swim on!

Roads opening up today

Good news for Spokane Valley drivers: 32nd Avenue between Avalon and Best is scheduled to reopen today. Evergreen Road between 16th and 24th Avenues is also set to reopen by the end of the day today, but the remainder of Evergreen from 24th to 32nd is expected to remain closed until Thursday. I'm sure completion of the project will also come as a relief to residents who live along the route.

Spokane Valley dog swim changes

Spokane Valley's first ever doggie swim day at the pool is Thursday night and organizers have made a few changes. There hasn't been much interest in the small dog (under 34 pounds) catergory, so that group will now swim at the same time as the medium dogs (between 35 and 59 pounds). The new start time is 5 p.m. at Valley Mission Pool, 11123 E. Mission. Large dogs will still swim from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m.

Remember that your dog has to have a current rabies vaccination and must be accompanied by an adult. All dogs will get a rinse before they are allowed in the pool, so allow time for that. There are other conditions as well; click here for details.

Investigation just beginning in homicide

A 25-year-old man was found dead Sunday morning in what Spokane Valley authorities are investigating as a possible homicide.

Spokane County Sheriff’s detectives believe they know the identity of the deceased man but don’t know how he died, sheriff’s spokesman Deputy David Thornburg said in a news release. Thornburg said he doesn’t expect any more details about the case until today.

A driver discovered the man at about 6:20 a.m. on Raymond Road near the intersection with Mission Avenue.

“The male victim was found in the roadway only wearing a pair of shorts,” Thornburg said.

The man had injuries consistent with being struck or dragged by an unknown hit-and-run vehicle, Thornburg said.

“There was no evidence of the male being shot or stabbed,” Thornburg said. “There was a pair of shoes and blue jeans found near the body, but there was no identification to positively identify the male.”

He did have a number of unique tattoos that lead investigators to believe they know his name, but the sheriff’s office will not release that name until his family can be notified, Thornburg said.

An autopsy is scheduled for today. 

“Given that the exact manner of death is unknown at this time, investigators are treating this incident as a homicide,” Thornburg said.

See you in a while

Just a note that I'll be out of the office next week, so don't expect much activity here. I'll be back at the helm on Aug. 27.

Free outdoor movie

It's supposed to be a bit toasty tomorrow, so the thing to do might be to check out a free outdoor movie in Spokane Valley's Mirabeau Park. The movie “Puss in Boots” will start at sunset. People are invited to bring lawn chair, blankets and snacks. Kids can also participate in free activies that will start an hour before the movie.

Mirabeau Meadows in located at 13500 E. Mirabeau Parkway just east of Pines Road.

Backpacks for Kids

The Salvation Army is once again collecting donations of school supplies for its annual Backpacks for Kids program. Low income children are given a backpack full of the school supplies they will need. There are several collection sites in Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake, including at Dishman Dodge (7614 E. Sprague), the Fred Meyer at Sprague and Sullivan, the Home Depot in Liberty Lake and all local Mountain West Bank and Rite Aid locations.

Parents interested in receiving backpacks for their children should call 325-6821. The distribution day will be on Aug. 23.