Looking back, receiving a text probably would have been worse.
Still, getting a voicemail message on his cell phone that Spokane County would be severing its road-maintenance contract with the city of Spokane Valley in 2009 wasn’t exactly a highpoint during Richard Munson’s tenure as mayor.
“Well, that was a bit of a surprise,” Munson said shortly after putting his phone back in his pocket during a break in the December 2008 meeting.
The county had been Spokane Valley’s contract partner for road maintenance – which included upkeep on traffic signals, signing and striping – since the city incorporated in 2003. Before that, it was the county’s responsibility as the Valley was unincorporated territory.
But the biggest blow to Spokane Valley was that it could no longer count on county crews for snowplowing. And in a few short days after Munson learned the city only had 10 months to come up with a plan of its own, Spokane Valley received some of its worst snowstorms ever.
The city was able to take its $1.8 million that it had been paying to the county each year to Spokane County and start to develop its own snow-removal program – which was used on a limited scale last season because of the light El Nino winter. A lease was drawn up to utilize space at a Waste Management facility, which is located behind the Spokane Valley Post Office on First Avenue, that happened to be across the street from City Hall.
Last week, Neil Kersten, city public works director, told the City Council that, out of several other properties he has looked at, that location still works best for the city.
“Most of the others are either really old or don’t fit our requirements,” Kersten said at the Nov. 16 meeting.
Kersten has championed purchasing the site, which is up for sale at $578,850 – considerably less than the next-best location at 17711 E. Euclid. While newer and a good size for the city’s plows and sanders, purchased over the last year, it’s too far east to serve the whole city cost-effectively.
“Another issue is there’s no sewer in that area,” Kersten said, who added that cost is another factor. The Euclid site’s asking price is $990,000.
“One of the issues is that we don’t have a lot of money,’ he said.
Mayor Tom Towey said he “felt comfortable” moving forward with the First Avenue location, which does have the potential to expand if more land is needed. The Central Valley School District owns a small piece of land adjacent to the Waste Management location.
Kersten was then given the green light by the council to look into the property further, with a final decision to be made next year.
Kersten then outlined the city’s snow plan for Spokane Valley, which is organized into four priority levels. Deicing of hillsides and plowing of major arterials will generally occur before work is done on the Valley floor, Kersten said.
The city’s contractor has crews and 16 drivers available in shifts for 24-hour coverage, if necessary. The city also has three drivers of its own and has budgeted $700,000 for snow removal. Another $505,000 is available in an emergency fund.
Those crews found themselves busy at work this week as the first significant snowfall blanketed Spokane Valley.
The city owns five plow/sander trucks, three plow/deicer trucks and two graders with side wings. Other equipment is also available through the city’s contract with Poe Asphalt and Paving Inc.
Primary and secondary arterials are identified in the plan as first and second priority. Hillside areas are third priority and residential streets on the Valley floor are fourth priority.
When snow is relatively light, at about 1 to 3 inches, plowing is performed as necessary, focusing on hillsides and problem areas. Once snow exceeds 4 inches, crews will begin full plowing of priority 1, 2 and 3 areas. Priority 4 flat residential streets are only plowed once traffic flow is substantially inhibited.
To hear recorded “SnowInfo” updates by telephone, call 720-5311 any time of day or night. There is also information on the city’s Web site, www.spokanevalley.org, and e-mail updates are available.
Community members are also reminded that they are responsible for keeping sidewalks to their homes and businesses clear of snow and ice. Local public service and/or volunteer organizations may be able to help those who are physically unable to clear their walkways. Call 2-1-1 for information and referrals between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for assistance.