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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

County cuts preservation office funds

Work mostly benefits Spokane, officials say

The Spokane historic preservation office will get only $5,000 from Spokane County in the $136.6 million 2012 budget county commissioners adopted Wednesday.

The county has given $20,000 a year to the office since at least 2009, but will shift $15,000 to the Fox Theater next year. The money will reduce a multiyear county pledge to help restore the landmark theater as a regional performing arts venue.

“We are forced to look at everything that we do,” Commissioner Mark Richard said, adding that the “vast majority” of the office’s activity benefits Spokane properties.

Chief Executive Marshall Farnell said Spokane Business and Development Director Teresa Brum, who oversees the preservation office, was able to cite only one unincorporated-area property the office has helped.

Brum said in an email that the office enabled the Arbor Crest Winery to get a tax exemption for restoration of its fire-damaged historic landmark Cliff House at 4702 N. Fruithill Road.

“A reduction to $5,000 would not be enough to make the tax incentive available in unincorporated Spokane County,” Brum wrote.

She didn’t respond to a Spokesman-Review request for comment.

“I’m tempted to amend it again and zero it out,” Commissioner Todd Mielke said after reading Brum’s statement. “Why would we pay anything when they guarantee us no service?”

The program is “very good for the city,” said Commission Chairman Al French, who used to be a Spokane city councilman. “I just don’t see the value for our county taxpayers.”

The Spokane City Council also will reduce funding for the office, from $165,000 this year to $134,791 next year.

Before adopting the 2012 county budget, commissioners heard and rejected a plea from Boundary Review Board Director Susan Winchell to fund the office through the end of next year.

Commissioners unanimously confirmed their decision to budget only $44,391. That will carry the $220,000-a-year office through Jan. 31, when commissioners will dissolve the board.