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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Thursday, June 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

Sprague-Appleway project raises unnecessary angst

By Bill Gothmann

Fear was evident at the April 28 hearing of the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Project. It’s time for some good, honest conversation.

A number of people feared that the city would raise taxes because the estimated cost of the Sprague and Appleway improvements was $41 million. That’s simply not true. Let’s look at the facts.

First, this is a 20-year plan. It will not be done the day after tomorrow.

Second, for every dollar spent on such projects, the city averages paying 24 cents and the feds, the state, and developers pay 76 cents. These figures place the project well within the present long-term capital budget of the city. Therefore, there are no plans to increase taxes.

Several feared that we would not extend Appleway – a large chunk of the $41 million estimated for the project. Unfortunately, this is a real problem.

For at least four years, the county has balked at giving us, their citizens, the Appleway extension, even though, through our past taxes, we have paid for it. I should note that, at the beginning of this project, two commissioners looked me straight in the eye and said that the extension should be given to the city without strings. This has been a moving target and I confess a great deal of pessimism that the county will turn it over to us so a road can be built.

Unfortunately, we have two Sprague intersections that are close to failing, Pines and Sullivan. State law requires us to either solve the problem or shut down development. Should talks fall through on the extension, we will not extend Appleway, and will be looking at other alternatives to solve the problem.

A number of people feared that we were designing a City Hall for a plot of land we don’t own.

Again, let’s look at the facts. We approved $377,000 for the design of a City Hall. However, no more than $50,000 of this can be spent until we own a plot of land, restricting the architects to doing only non site-specific tasks.

Some feared we were raising taxes to build a City Hall. The facts are that we have $5 million available and spend about $450,000 per year renting the present facility. If we were to need more funding than we have on hand, the matter would be put to a vote of the people.

All this will not happen overnight. It is estimated that it will take at least two years to do the planning, come back to council for changes, and do additional planning before such an issue is ready for the voters.

One further note: We simply cannot put a sketch down on a napkin and come to you, the voters, to approve a City Hall. We have to have a real, live plan, and that is precisely our goal.

I might also mention that recently city staff and council members attended a “green” conference in Portland. At that conference, it was noted that there are funds available for “green” buildings. Right now, our staff is looking into this and other sources for possible funding. Again, we need a plan before we can ask possible grantors to fund such a project.

Ask questions. Get straight answers. We are trying our best to serve you, the citizens.

Bill Gothmann is a Spokane Valley city councilman.

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