Spokane’s only tax revenue geared specifically for sidewalks won’t be diverted for street paving by the City Council’s new membership.
The council last year narrowly approved a $20-per vehicle tab tax and mandated that 10 percent be spent on sidewalks while the rest be spent on streets.
A majority of members on the more conservative City Council elected in November already said they didn’t support repealing the tax. On Tuesday, it became clear that the sidewalk set-aside is safe, too.
The council voted unanimously to approve two sidewalk construction projects for this year using tab fee revenue. A third sidewalk project was approved on a 6-0 vote with Councilman Mike Allen abstaining because he lives across the street from where the sidewalk will be installed on 29th Avenue.
The projects were recommended by the Citizens Transportation Advisory Board.
Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin, who voted against setting aside money for sidewalks and the creation of the tab tax last year, said while sidewalks aren’t her first transportation priority, she recognizes that the city has a problem with large sections of missing sidewalks.
“I lost that vote,” she said. “It’s time to move on. I want to help make as good decisions as possible with these dollars.”
John Covert, chairman of the Citizens Transportation Advisory Board, said the city expects to collect about $2.5 million a year in tab taxes. The board recommended spending 60 percent of the set-aside on sidewalks this year and waiting to spend the rest until the city completes a new pedestrian plan.
“We wanted to see some action,” Covert said when asked why the board is willing to move forward with a pedestrian plan completed.
The board picked one project for each City Council district. They are:
* Installation of a sidewalk along Altamont Street near Arlington Elementary for about $45,000.
* Installation of a sidewalk along 29th Avenue near High Drive and repair of other portions of the sidewalk along 29th Avenue between High Drive and Grand Boulevard for about $50,000
* Installation of a sidewalk along Queen Place and Driscoll Boulevard near Browne Elementary for about $44,000.
Covert said the board targeted areas with missing sidewalks and lots of pedestrians near schools and projects that can be combined with already-scheduled street paving. The city plans to reconstruct 29th Avenue between Grand and High Drive this summer.
Councilman Steve Salvatori, who endorsed the tab tax as a candidate last year, said he probably would have voted against setting aside money for sidewalks because of the backlog of street paving projects.
But he said he liked the selected projects and admired the process used by the citizen’s committee.
“I wouldn’t try to change it,” he said.
The council earlier this month approved the advisory board’s plan for street spending.