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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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NIC names Bobby Lee athletic director

After an extensive nationwide search, North Idaho College has announced the hiring of Robert (Bobby) Lee as the new Athletics Director.

Five finalists named to become next Spokane fire chief

The city will hold interviews with the candidates on May 11, according to a news release. The finalists include Interim Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer and Tony Nielsen, chief of Spokane County Fire District 8.

Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams to retire in January after 28 years at helm

The longest-serving fire chief in Spokane’s history will retire in January. Fire Chief Bobby Williams, who was named head of the Spokane Fire Department during Mayor Vicki McNeill’s administration, will step down after the new year. Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer will serve as interim chief during a national search for Williams’ replacement.

Spokane firefighters will continue to answer medical calls in SUVs

SUVs will continue to respond to some medical emergencies in Spokane, according to an agreement announced Monday between the city and the firefighters union. The agreement follows a vote by the City Council last month that required the Alternative Response Units to be staffed by two people instead of one. Before the vote and the program’s temporary suspension in May, the vehicles were staffed by just one person.

City, fire department unveil hire-ahead program for new cadets

As Spokane’s aging firefighters head toward retirement, and the amount of overtime pay the department consumes rattles the Spokane City Council, Chief Bobby Williams and Mayor David Condon this week unveiled a “hire ahead” program to train cadets ahead of outgoing officers. The program, first proposed by Councilman Mike Allen in 2009, will have an initial cost of $195,000, which must be approved by the City Council. Savings from vacant positions in the department and from the city’s workers’ compensation insurance will also be used to initially fund the program.

Jack Spring, former major league pitcher, dies

Jack Russell Spring, a left hander who pitched in the same bullpen as Satchel Paige and against Mickey Mantle before returning home and coaching West Valley to the Spokane area’s only state high school baseball championship in 1978, died on Sunday. He was 82.

Spokane City Council requires two firefighters on calls for help

At least two firefighters must respond to a call for help, the Spokane City Council decided Monday in a surprise decision that not even the fire chief was briefed on until just prior to the vote. The requirement raises questions about the future of the city’s “Alternative Response Units,” which were formed in 2013 in response to long-standing concerns that the department was over-responding to minor medical emergencies with multiple firefighters in gas-guzzling firetrucks. Fire officials had long argued that they needed to be in firetrucks so they would be ready for any call. But they said that position shifted with the increasing load of medical calls and budget crunches.

Sen. Maria Cantwell promotes oil train safety bill

With trains rumbling on the BNSF viaduct behind her and flanked by uniformed Spokane firefighters, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, called for greater federal oversight and stricter regulations for the nation’s railways carrying crude oil. Cantwell – who was joined by Spokane Mayor David Condon, Council President Ben Stuckart, Fire Chief Bobby Williams and Spokane Valley Deputy Chief of Operations Andy Hail – stood in front of Spokane Fire Station No. 4 and said Spokane had a particular interest in oil train safety but was not unique in its concern.

City moves to reduce fire response times

For nearly a decade, Spokane city leaders have called for expanded fire service in the southwest corner of town. This week, Spokane Mayor David Condon said his administration was making it a reality with the help of a $2 million federal grant, but solutions for funding a new fire station after the grant’s expiration remain unclear. Condon announced Thursday the city will “provide full-time, round-the-clock coverage in the area surrounding Thorpe and Highway 195,” thanks to the federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant. The grant money will be used to hire and train 12 firefighters, six of whom will staff a temporary fire station in Latah Valley. Two more positions for the station will be funded from the fire department’s current budget, providing for a two-person-per-unit station that can respond to fires and medical emergencies.

Spokane mayor’s budget plan includes raises for himself, his cabinet

Spokane Mayor David Condon already makes more money than Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Next year, if his proposed pay raise gets approved by the City Council, he’ll make more than his former boss, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The $7,000 raise will bring his annual pay to nearly $180,000, and the increase is part of the mayor’s proposed 2015 city budget released this week. He’s not the only one set to receive a bump in pay. The 14 people in Condon’s Cabinet, including the mayor, are getting on average a 2 percent increase in pay.

Shawn Vestal: Lopez-AMR contract kerfuffle raises questions

Before the courts slapped down the mayor’s attempt to expand political appointments in the city’s hiring, one handpicked hire snuck through the gate. That appointment – the hiring of Mike Lopez as head of EMS services – illustrates the problems built into the entire approach. Lopez was hired without a competitive process. He was hired before his position had even formally been created. His hiring was justified by a bureaucratic rigmarole – title-shuffling and department-creating – and placed in a Catch-22 type of category, which Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer described in an internal email as a “civilian EMS Chief that isn’t a chief.”

City’s search for ambulance provider produces sole bid

Spokane leaders may rebid an ambulance contract after no competition emerged to challenge the firm that already provides the city’s emergency transportation. Only American Medical Response bid on the five-year contract for ambulance service in Spokane.