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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane County considers partnerships, sites for sheriff’s deputy training facility

Spokane County is casting a wide net for partners to help construct a permanent home to train sheriff’s deputies, including a potential deal with the Kalispel Tribe.

Commissioner Todd Mielke said there’s no rush to make a decision, because the Sheriff’s Office has a good deal going with East Valley School District leasing Mountain View Middle School in Newman Lake. The training facilities were moved from the former University City Mall earlier this year. That building has since been demolished ahead of planned redevelopment along East Sprague Avenue in Spokane Valley.

Mielke said talks with the Kalispels are separate from the county’s stated opposition to plans by the Spokane Tribe to build a casino on the West Plains. The Kalispels operate Northern Quest Resort & Casino in Airway Heights, and Mielke and his colleagues have drawn criticism for opposing the Spokanes’ casino project, which they say will affect operations at nearby Fairchild Air Force Base.

“We do interlocal agreements with government entities all the time,” Mielke said. “The Kalispels are another governmental entity.”

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who said his top choice would be rehabilitating property next to the Spokane County Raceway for training, said talks with the Kalispels were about trying to offer a training partnership with the area’s tribal police agencies. If the county decides to renovate the raceway property, tribal law enforcement agencies would be invited in, Knezovich said.

Mielke said other options include remaining with the East Valley School District or partnering with the Community Colleges of Spokane. All options are being explored, he said.

“Right now, we’re surviving,” Mielke said. “If we want to expand the training program, we may need to look at other options.”

Spokane County is making a monthly rent payment of $6,355 to East Valley for use of the middle school property, at 12325 E. Grace Ave. The school was shuttered in 2011. The agreement runs through August 2016.

Before moving into the school, the county was paying $159,000 annually, or $13,250, in monthly rent to use the University City property. The county initially agreed to lease the building in January 2009.

Knezovich said building a permanent training facility would help improve the office’s efforts to increase professionalism. He ranked the importance of beefing up training facilities just below receiving more money from the county to hire additional deputies.

“Take a look at any of the lawsuits that are filed against law enforcement in this country, and the number one thing you see is ‘failure to train,’ ” Knezovich said.

Mielke said Spokane County commissioners would continue to look at their options, and a decision would be made not only on affordability, but also the quality of the proposal.

“I want flagship facilities,” he said.

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