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Spokane Valley Mayor Ben Wick says tough times lay ahead, encourages volunteerism

Ben Wick is the mayor of Spokane Valley. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Valley Mayor Ben Wick said the city will likely face tough economic times ahead and asked residents to stay engaged to help their community.

Wick, who was elected mayor by his City Council colleagues in January, said Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay- home order extension means more businesses will be closed for longer and that the city may need to hold off on hiring employees as less sales tax is generated.

In a Friday interview conducted as part of The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages Book Club, Wick said the city normally budgets below the amount of revenue that comes in every year and has several contingencies in place for a downturn, some of which were started after the 2008 recession.

Wick said the money the city set aside may be enough to weather economic issues caused by the shutdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it’s too early to know how much sales tax the city will need to get though a downturn.

In the meantime, he does not anticipate the city will have to lay off workers.

Spokane Valley City Council also is waiting to see how much sales tax the city will bring in before deciding whether to purchase a 45-acre piece of land for a new park. The land borders the Spokane River and Flora Road, and the city is working on applying for a grant that would reimburse almost half the cost of the $2.1 million property.

Wick said he would like to buy the parcel because the city has extra money set aside to redo Balfour Park and to purchase new park land. Other interested buyers include an apartment complex developer and a gravel pit operator.

“Once it sells to a developer or a gravel pit and they start that process, there is no going back from that, you’re not going to get that property back,” Wick said.

He said if the economic downturn is more severe than anticipated, the city can sell the land.

In addition to the city preparing for an economic downturn, Wick encouraged those who are able to help to sew masks, donate blood or volunteer at a food bank.

“Those are great examples of how we can keep our community moving forward while still supporting social distancing and keeping everybody healthy as we go through this,” he said.