Spokane Valley Online
The Spokane Valley News Herald
City of Spokane Valley, WA
Year in Review Part l

01/01/2010

By MIKE HUFFMAN
Managing Editor

(This is the first of a two-part look at all the notable news and events of 2009. Part 2 will appear next week.)

 

January
White Christmas? I’ll give you a white Christmas!” Old Man Winter roared before doing just that (along with a white New Year’s, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, etc., etc.). City of Spokane Valley officials declared an emergency as another 18 inches fell on top of the 40 or so that were already on the ground.

All those “Crime Check, 456-2233” magnets that we’d all stashed in our kitchen junk drawers were fished out and affixed back on the fridge as the nonemergency 24-hour law-enforcement phone line made its triumphant return.

The last time Angie Bjorklund played a basketball game in the Inland Northwest, she propelled the University Titans to a regional championship against rival Lewis and Clark. She proved to have the winning touch once again as she led Tennessee to a 77-58 win over the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Still stinging from Spokane County’s severance of the road-maintenance contract, the Spokane Valley City Council voted to begin to shop around for potential alternatives in every other area the city relies on the county for service – including law enforcement.

Spokane County commissioners opted to move forward with building a new wastewater treatment plant. Most of the new plant’s business would come from Spokane Valley.

Traffic accidents, broken pipes, buried fire hydrants and leaking roofs taxed abilities of the Spokane Valley Fire Department. Calls were up 30 percent over normal.

While Sprague-Appleway revitalization was still getting most of the City Council’s attention, Spokane Valley’s leaders turned their gaze toward the possibility of adding ore north-south streets.

Spokane County commissioners took steps to reduce the number of judges on the District Court due to the fact that Spokane’s decision to form a municipal court would reduce the county’s workload.

February
East Valley School District officials were getting a bit conflicted while interpreting their constituents’ desires. On one hand, a much-needed maintenance-and-operations levy passed by over 56 percent. But a $34.5 million bond for new construction barely scraped past 50-percent approval and nowhere near the 60 percent needed for passage.

Flashing signs and billboards would not be welcome in the city center area under the new Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan, it was decided by the Spokane Valley City Council.

The tangle of weeds, old tires and other junk left behind in the old Milwaukee Railroad right-of-way would remain for a while longer, as the Washington Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Spokane Valley for the property, which would be used for the extension of Appleway between University and Sullivan roads.

The city of Liberty Lake signed a pact with Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service for animal control, and the deal had plenty of tongues – and tails – wagging.

Sales tax revenues continued to dip as the economy limped along like a three-legged dog stuck in a plastic sack. Ken Thompson, city finance director, said a 6-percent tax on telephone service that had been launched a month earlier would help the city’s road fun to the tune of $3 million or so in 2009.

Two out of three county commissioners – Bonnie Mager voted no – agreed that the existing makeup of the Spokane Regional Health District board of directors was fine as it is and no overhaul with fewer elected members was needed.

Funeral services were held for Raymond Hanson, a prominent Spokane Valley entrepreneur and developer, who passed away at the age of 85.
More information would be needed before the Spokane Valley City Council could make any decision on the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan, which was rapidly moving toward completion. After three years of study and deliberation, there was still a bit more tinkering to do.

March
If there was any doubt that the cloud of the economic downturn still was blackening skies in this area, it became more than apparent once it was announced that Itronix – a fixture of the Spokane Valley since spinning off from Itron in 1992 – would be closing the doors of its local operations center and shedding about 300 jobs.

The city of Liberty Lake unveiled its new library – a “Plan B” after voters rejected a $9.8 million capital-facilities bond for a new structure in the city.
A bit of fine-tuning was required, but the Spokane Valley City Council finished work on the three-years-in-the-making Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan. Now it was time for the public to weigh in on the final document. Probably, though, nobody would even bother. How much of a fuss could there be?

Spokane County commissioners said the city of Spokane Valley was in violation of its public safety contract. That, at least, was the contention of the county’s legal staff.

Spokane Valley City Council members agreed to spend up to $50,000 in initial design work for a new City Hall. Council Members Rose Dempsey and Gary Schimmels voted no. Brenda Grassel and Dean Grafos took notes.
Meanwhile, little red “Disincorporate Now!” signs were beginning to sprout like dandelions around Spokane Valley. Former Mayor Mike DeVleming, in guest column in the Spokane Valley News Herald, wondered why those dissatisfied with city government didn’t take a more active role to become involved. What an interesting idea…

The West Valley girls basketball team took home a third-place trophy from the state 2A tournament in Yakima.

Spokane County commissioners said they would help the city of Spokane Valley establish its own snow-removal team or contract for outside help before snow flies in the winter. They reiterated, however, that the county would not renew a snow-plowing contract with the city.


April
Spokane Valley Mayor Richard Munson announced he would once again run for City Council. Hey, you know what would be crazy? If a sitting elected official – say, a state legislator, for example – of the same political party decided to run against him! And, get this, not give up his other job! Ha, ha! Boy, that would be nuts.

The glacial progress toward work on the Havana Street overpass crept ever so slowly forward. The city of Spokane, after years of delay, was to begin work in the summer on the $20.4 million project. Magic eight-ball says…
After months of discussion and number-crunching, bids were awarded for the reconstruction of Argonne Road through the city of Millwood and work was set to begin over the summer. No, really. It actually happened.

The Spokane Valley City Council agreed to continue its full-width paving program in areas where Spokane County crews lay sewer lines as part of the Septic Tank Elimination Program.

Deputy Mayor Dick Denenny, who had been on the City Council since the city’s inception, said he wouldn’t be running for office in November. Wow, that’s kind of big news and sure to bring out tons of potential candidates. It would be weird if only one person – say, a write-in candidate from the previous election – decided to file for the office in June. Yeah, like that could happen!

The Liberty Lake City Council expressed concerns with the Tax Increment Financing plan set up for the River District area. Specifically, council members were concerned that county commissioners – not the council – had oversight of the area.

Over two dozen voiced concerns over the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan, saying the city would “down zone” existing property on the busy arterial and that it didn’t have the “$40 million” needed to get the plan started. City officials didn’t respond at the meeting, held at CenterPlace, which meant many – some, no doubt, registered voters -- went home with the words “totalitariasm” or “out of touch with reality” ringing in their ears.

Seemingly oblivious to the economic collapse and record unemployment, unionized employees at Spokane Valley Hospital and Medical Center thought it might be a good time to picket their employer. There was no strike, however.


May

Swine-flu mania was sweeping the nation, but so far Spokane Valley managed to remain unscathed. Still, local health officials remained vigilant and were preparing for the worse before the end of the year was out.

After 19 years of involvement with West Valley High School’s boys basketball program, Jamie Nilles announced he would step down as head coach. During his tenure, Nilles amassed a 204-71 record and took the team to the state 2A tournament seven times out of 11 seasons.

Proving the adage you can’t make all of the people happy all of the time, city survey results showed that Spokane Valley’s government was doing a mostly good job, however 1-in-5 rated its performance as “poor.”

Construction season began in earnest, with bulldozers and backhoes making their way up and down Argonne Road and Sprague Avenue for reconstruction work. In the case of Argonne, much of the improvements would be made during the nighttime hours.

There was plenty of budget misery to go around at Spokane Valley school districts, with all officials concluding that some cutbacks would be necessary but all hoping they could be accomplished without layoffs. Ryan Romney was sworn in to a seat on the Liberty Lake City Council after it was vacated by Brian Sayrs, who resigned a month earlier due to “illness.”

Spokane County commissioners were becoming more and more concerned that the city of Spokane Valley was not working toward coming up with a short-term solution for snowplowing for the winter of 2009.  City officials, however, contended that they had been put in a difficult position after the abruptness of the county’s late-2008 notification that it would no longer plow Spokane Valley streets.

The Spokane Valley City Council – without the support of members Rose Dempsey and Gary Schimmels – agreed to send the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan to a final reading. “I feel the plan is just too much,” Dempsey said.

June
Tension between the city of Spokane Valley and Spokane County went up a notch as the city refused to pay $2 million county officials believed they were owed in back-fees for law-enforcement service. The issue scuttled a “quarterly” meeting between the council and county commissioners. (Editor’s note: The word “quarterly” receives quotes because the meetings are only, if anything, “occasional.”) City officials, however, eventually agreed to make a “good faith” payment of $1.1 million to the county after a state audit showed that money was owed.

Ground was finally broken on the longtime-coming wastewater treatment plant that would mostly serve Spokane Valley residents, but operated by Spokane County. The facility would be located in Spokane near Trent and Freya, at the site of the old stockyards.

Seemingly defying all logic, state Sen. Bob McCaslin officially became a Spokane Valley City Council candidate. Specifically, the 82-year old 4th District politico was targeting Mayor Richard Munson because “no one else would run.” McCaslin also said he would not give up his Senate seat – a move that, in the words of former Mayor Mike DeVleming, was “very strange.” Meanwhile, local businesswoman Brenda Grassel filed to run against former Mayor Diana Wilhite on the council. Incumbent Gary Schimmels was unchallenged, as was Tom Towey, who, by default, would succeed Deputy Mayor Dick Denenny.

Adding to the election madness in Spokane Valley was the bombshell that Steve Taylor, another member of the City Council since the city’s inception, was resigning to take a job as city administrator in Connell. “This will be good,” Taylor said. “There’s a lot of potential for growth.” Well, at least he didn’t say “positive change.”

Before Taylor caught the last train out of town, however, he cast a “yes” vote for the final adoption of the Sprague-Appleway Revitalization Plan, which would restrict zoning and steer development toward a proposed city center at Sprague and University. Taylor called it “truly fabulous.” Mayor Richard Munson said the city was at a “crossroads.” Council Member Bill Gothmann said it would “probably” be changed in the future.

 
TheSpokane Valley News Herald
is the City of Spokane Valley, Washington's official Newspaper. The City Council of the City of Spokane Valley, Washington named the Spokane Valley News Herald as the city's "official" newspaper. The designation means the Spokane Valley News Herald will publish the city's legal notices on a contract basis for one year.

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2009 Valley News Articles Archive
2008 Valley News Articles Archive