In the end, neighbors along Blake Road got what they wanted: no new sidewalk.
The Spokane Valley City Council voted Tuesday evening to send a letter to Spokane County Board of Commissioners asking to rescind the Valley’s part of the federal Community Development Block Grant monies allotted to Spokane County for 2016.
The Valley is guaranteed 20 percent of the CDBG funds, or $337,075, according to minutes from the Jan. 14 CDBG allocation board meeting. The main part was to go to a sidewalk along Blake Road, a project identified and recommended by Spokane Valley city staff in October.
Spokane Valley Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard is the City Council’s representative on the CDBG board.
Minutes from the allocation board meeting show a lengthy discussion about whether the Valley can give up its funds and what would happen to them. It was determined it’s too late in the grant cycle for the Valley to apply for funding for another project, so the money will go toward other projects in Spokane County.
Woodard argued at the CDBG meeting that smaller but more essential projects in towns like Rockford – which may need a new well – are more critical than a sidewalk in Spokane Valley. At one point Woodard said smaller municipalities will turn into ghost towns if they don’t get help with critical infrastructure projects.
“I’m gonna argue for the small … critical projects for the other communities. That’s what I’m gonna do,” Woodard told the CDBG board, according to minutes.
Councilmen Dean Grafos and Chuck Hafner asked Woodard to explain how the Valley’s share had gone from more than $300,000 to zero.
Grafos and Hafner both read out loud part of the minutes from the January meeting where Woodard said the Valley’s then City Manager Mike Jackson – who was fired by the council last week – would have a problem rescinding the funds.
Grafos accused Woodard of not representing the Valley’s interests.
“The numbers don’t add up,” Grafos said, adding he will ask the state attorney general to investigate Woodard’s conduct on the CDBG board.
At that point Mayor Rod Higgins used his gavel to call the meeting to order, and reminded Grafos it was the wrong time to make allegations and charges.
Woodard said the challenge with CDBG funds is there’s never enough money to go around.
“We had applications for $2.9 million but only about $900,000 available,” Woodard said, as he showed a binder of applications to the audience.
Before the discussion got this far, Councilman Sam Wood had asked to recuse himself because he chairs the board of Carnhope Water District which is receiving $73,440 in CDBG funds for a new water main.
Spokane Conservation District is also receiving $225,000 for single unit sewer hookups, all located within Spokane Valley.
Woodard said these two projects mean Spokane Valley will benefit from more than $290,000, which he called a good tradeoff.
Caught in it all was a group of Blake Road neighbors who began protesting the proposed sidewalk shortly after the election, and continued in early January after the city sent a letter to 356 addresses in the vicinity inviting neighbors to a public meeting about the project on Jan. 20.
On Saturday, city staff conducted a site visit at which it was noted most residents on Blake Road were opposed to the sidewalk for a variety of reasons.
Krisinda Marshall, who’s lived on Blake Road all her life, said the neighborhood has major traffic issues like speeding and unregulated intersections that will not be solved by a sidewalk.
When it was time to vote, Woodard first asked to abstain from voting. Because Wood was already recused, Woodard’s abstention had the potential to tie the council vote, so he changed his mind.
The council approved a motion asking the city manager to write a letter to county commissioners stating that the Valley relinquishes its CDBG funds for 2016. The motion passed, with Councilmen Bill Gothmann, Ed Pace, Higgins and Woodard voting in favor, accompanied by small cheers from Blake Road neighbors.
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