After years of effort, the East Side Little League in Liberty Lake has a baseball field to call its own. The new field was carved out of a corner of Pavillion Park and the first game was played May 2.
On Wednesday the Spartans and the Kings, both East Side Little League teams, happily played on the field. The white chalk on the base lines was a sharp contrast against the green grass and the brown dirt brought in for the field.
Volunteers did the work. “We had to build a backstop, we had to extend the fence line down both of the base paths, and we had to create an infield,” said organizer Jennifer Tomlinson. The volunteers cut out sod and hauled dirt, replacing it with a special dirt for baseball fields. A maintenance crew from the Spokane Indians created the pitcher’s mound.
Summer Tuohey-Carpenter, 10, a Spartan, likes the new field because it’s right across the street from her house. She also did some of the construction work. “I did the dirt,” she said. “I raked it, and I shoveled it.”
Her father, Brian Carpenter, logged many hours on the field. “I was here three or four weekends, putting in eight-hour days,” he said. “All the work was worth it. It puts a smile on the kids’ faces.”
Tomlinson said it took “sheer persistence” to make the field happen. A previous location fell through and they began discussions with the city of Liberty Lake about getting a field in Pavillion Park. The field was finally approved last month. It’s only for Little League use, since the field dimensions are too small to allow adult games.
The city donated the dirt, and other donors stepped up with supplies and labor. “We had probably close to 100 volunteers on that project,” she said.
The league also purchased a temporary fence for the outfield so that the adjacent area can still be used for soccer games and other activities. Before the field was finished, teams played all over the place, including on a private ball field called The Diamond at Safeco. Having a centrally located field to call their own makes for a shorter commute for most players.
“They’re able to ride their bikes to the field,” Tomlinson said. “It’s right in the center of the city. You couldn’t ask for a better spot, honestly.”
Disincorporation group hires signature gatherers
Backers of a drive to disincorporate Spokane Valley have turned to paid signature gatherers, including at least one with a dubious grasp of the issues.
A young man stationed in front of the Trading Co. Store at Sprague Avenue and McDonald Road last week asked a Spokesman-Review reporter whether he wanted to sign a petition to merge Spokane Valley with Spokane – just about the last thing most disincorporation supporters would want.
“Oh my God,” disincorporation organizer Sally Jackson gasped.
Jackson, chairwoman of Citizens for Disincorporation, said she had hoped to use only volunteers “because everybody who goes out knows what he’s doing and is dedicated to it.” But developer Dean Grafos offered to hire some signature gatherers to supplement the volunteers, she said.
Grafos, owner of Grafos Investments, declined to reveal the signature-gathering firm, the number of employees assigned to the job, the amount being paid or whether the workers are paid by the hour or by the signature.
He said members of Friends of Spokane Valley, a group he helped establish, have hired a “handful” of signature gatherers as an in-kind contribution to Citizens for Disincorporation.
Friends of Spokane Valley supports disincorporation because of dissatisfaction with the city’s proposed Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan. Members object to the plan’s “stealth rezoning, government taking and bureaucratic power grab,” Grafos said.
Jackson and Citizens for Disincorporation Treasurer Dorothy Dieni said they had no details on the professional signature gatherers, although their group will be required to report the contribution to the state Public Disclosure Commission.
In its latest monthly report on May 5, Citizens for Disincorporation reported collecting $3,471 and spending $1,614 since the organization registered with the commission on Feb. 24.
Grafos said the signature gatherer who talked about merging Spokane Valley with the city of Spokane was in his first day on the job and had confused Spokane with Spokane County. Disincorporation proponents want control of Spokane Valley, which was incorporated in 2003, to revert to the Spokane County government.
“We have that confusion cleared up now,” Grafos said.
Grafos said he is convinced most Spokane Valley residents want to vote on the issue, but “getting over 24,000 signatures within a very short time frame requires a multifaceted approach.”
There is no deadline for filing the petition at the county auditor’s office, but signatures more than 6 months old won’t be counted.
Enthusiasm for the city was lackluster when residents created it. Only 51.4 percent of voters supported incorporation in May 2002. Three previous votes for valleywide incorporation and two proposals for smaller cities got no more than 44.3 percent support.
Government officials won’t tell disincorporation advocates whether they followed the right procedures until they turn in a petition.
“We would not evaluate the language beforehand,” Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said. “The law does not give us that authority. It’s up to the grass-roots effort to make sure everything is proper.”
Medical Lake looking into police-sheriff mix
The Medical Lake City Council has decided to move forward in negotiations with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office about contracting for police services.
The city has been searching for a police chief for about 18 months with no success. In March, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich spoke to the council about what it would mean if the city used his department’s services.
Knezovich said that by state law, he can offer the current police staff the opportunity to stay on as long as they meet the Sheriff’s Office requirements. Residents would also have access to Crime Check and 911.
“We want to blend with what you have,” Knezovich told the council.
City Administrator Doug Ross stressed that this decision in no way means the city is ready to sign a contract, but allowed city staff to start negotiations with the sheriff.
“We don’t even have a final dollar amount,” Ross told the council during its meeting Tuesday.
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