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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Riverfront fountain dedication today

Compiled from staff and wire reports The Spokesman-Review

Work on a new Riverfront Park fountain is virtually completed, but the opening of a new gondola has been delayed until mid-September.

Spokane parks officials said on Wednesday that the new $1.4 million Rotary Riverfront Fountain will be dedicated today at 11 a.m. The fountain’s cascading water, which is filtered and chlorinated, will be open for users to play in. The fountain water passed a health test on Wednesday. The fountain is expected to be open to users during this weekend’s Pig Out in the Park festival.

Officials had hoped a new $2.5 million gondola would be ready for use this weekend, but problems were encountered during tests of the ride earlier this month.

Riverfront Park Manager Craig Butz said devices used to hang the gondola cars from the ride’s cable were too large, causing the cabins to tilt inward very slightly. It was feared the problem could lead to premature wear. A decision was made to fabricate new hangers, which were expected in Spokane on Friday, he said.

The ride is now expected to be opened between Sept. 10 and Sept. 17. Opening festivities for the rebuilt Monroe Street Bridge are planned for Sept. 16 through 18. The gondola ride passes beneath the bridge.

Spokane Valley cops arrest two on drug charges

Spokane Valley police arrested two motel patrons on drug charges after the officers went to a Motel 6 on Wednesday to educate employees about methamphetamine.

Before leaving the Motel 6 on Interstate 90 and Argonne Road, the officers checked a few license plates and discovered a stolen car, Spokane Valley police spokesman Cpl. Dave Reagan said.

Police set up surveillance and, at about 10:20 a.m., saw two men and a teenage girl leave the motel and get into a stolen 2005 Mitsubishi Endeavor, despite a rear flat tire, Reagan said. The officers attempted to stop the car at a Wendy’s Hamburgers. The 16-year-old got out and ran, and the car continued up over a curb and across the lawn of another restaurant until the driver and the passenger got out and ran.

Police arrested two men, both of whom had small amounts of meth. The 16-year-old girl was released to her parents.

Mark E. Payne, 25, of Spokane Valley, was charged with possession of methamphetamine, attempt to elude police and taking a motor vehicle without the owner’s permission, Reagan said. Cabbie E. Baruth, also 25, was charged with possession of methamphetamine and obstructing a police investigation.

Officer recognized for preventing suicide

A Spokane Police officer who worked to persuade a suicidal man not to kill himself was presented Wednesday with the department’s Lifesaving Award.

Officer Kevin Keller responded on May 5 to High Drive near 33rd Avenue, where the man was driving down a steep embankment.

Keller stood behind the car and stayed in constant communication with the man, who would drive farther down the embankment in short spurts. He also instructed the driver how to prevent his Chevrolet Blazer from tumbling down the hill, said police spokesman Dick Cottam in a press release.

The man eventually exited and was taken for a mental health check at a local hospital.

Shriners Hospital starts muscular dystrophy clinic

Spokane’s Shriners Hospital is starting a new monthly clinic for children with neuromuscular diseases.

The hospital has teamed up with the Muscular Dystrophy Association to create the multidisciplinary clinic, which will allow patients to meet with specialists in neurology, cardiology, orthopedics, genetics, physical therapy and other areas all in one day, according to Maggie Crabtree, spokeswoman for Shriners Hospitals for Children-Spokane.

The clinic will serve children from four states and two Canadian provinces.

Several similar clinics have closed in the area, Crabtree said.

“That really leaves a gap of service for these families,” she said.

To attend the clinic, patients must first apply to be treated by Shriners. Applications are available by calling the hospital at (509) 455-7844 or by logging on to the Web site at http://www.shrinershq.org/shc/spokane/.

The next muscular dystrophy clinic will be held on Sept. 15. An open house for the clinic will also be held at the hospital that day from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Crabtree said.

State proposes workers’ comp rate hike

Olympia

The state proposes increasing workers’ compensation insurance rates by an average of 3.8 percent next year.

The Department of Labor and Industries announced the $56 million proposal on Wednesday. The agency scheduled five public hearings around the state, beginning Oct. 11.

Director Gary Weeks will make a final rate decision in mid-November. The rates take effect Jan. 1 and show up on employers’ first quarter billings in April.

Weeks characterized the increase as modest, reflecting an expanding economy and lower forecasts for medical and wage inflation. The extra dollars are needed to cover anticipated increases in providing medical and wage-replacement benefits to injured workers in 2006, he said.

The state-run system includes an accident fund that pays partial wage-replacement and disability checks. On average, this program needs a 12.1 percent rate increase, the department said.

The program’s medical aid fund, which pays for medical care and vocational rehabilitation for injured workers, will stay roughly the same as this year.

A supplemental pension fund, which covers cost-of-living increases for those drawing long-term wage-replacement checks, will go down by 16 percent.

Taken together, the changes would result in the 3.8 percent overall increase. Actual rates would vary by industry and risk classification.

Workers cover about a quarter of their own premiums, and on average would pay about 13 cents an hour under the new proposal.

The state covers 165,000 employers and two million workers.

Hearings are planned in Spokane, Yakima, Mount Vernon, Vancouver and Tumwater.

The rate for this year represented a 3.7 percent increase over the 2004 rate.

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