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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Kootenai, Spokane counties think big

Commissioners collaborate on cross-border ideas

What if:

• Kootenai County’s free Citylink bus system connected with Spokane Transit Authority routes to allow commuters to travel back and forth across the state line?

• Spokane County could ease its landfill needs by shipping some of its waste to Kootenai County’s Fighting Creek Landfill?

• Law enforcement in the two counties established a regional pay structure so Kootenai County didn’t regularly lose officers to Spokane County’s higher salaries?

Realistic or not, those were some of the ideas tossed on the table Monday during the first joint meeting of Spokane and Kootenai counties’ boards of commissioners.

A mutual friend introduced newly elected Commissioners Dan Green of Kootenai County and Al French of Spokane County, and the two hatched the idea for quarterly meetings to see what the two boards could learn from each other.

“We’re going to be open to the dialogue and see if we can chart a course that would benefit both of us,” French said of the first meeting, held in Kootenai County. The next meeting will likely be this fall in Spokane County.

On the agenda Monday were public transportation, the possibility of building a regional jail to ease both counties’ overpopulation issues, recycling and solid waste, and river pollution. The commissioners were accompanied by county staff knowledgeable about the topics.

On transportation, the commissioners learned that Citylink’s western-most stop is in the Cabela’s parking lot at Stateline and that ridership for the whole system currently tops 55,000 users per month.

French made note of the heavy usage of public transportation in Liberty Lake and said Spokane County has regularly discussed either light rail (an idea rejected by voters in 2006) or a rapid transit system for commuters from outlying areas.

“There’s a state line there but … our jurisdictions are blended,” said Kootenai County Commissioner Todd Tondee.

Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard suggested county CEO Marshall Farnell meet with a representative of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, which funds much of Citylink, and with Christine Fueston, administrator of Kootenai County’s Federal Transit Authority grant. French and Richard, both members of the STA board, said they’d talk to other board members about the possibility of connecting the transportation systems.

The commissioners informed each other of progress, like Kootenai County’s launch recently of single-stream recycling in Coeur d’Alene, and warned each other of problems, like cattle trucks trying to dodge Washington’s required check-in at ports of entry by taking side roads to bypass the state line.

“These are regional issues,” Green said. “It’s got to start somewhere.”

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