Economic development. Capital projects. The parks master plan. The legislative agenda.
It doesn’t sound like much of a vacation, does it?
Then again, the winter retreats of the Spokane Valley City Council have been more about crunching numbers and future planning than taking a snow day on the slopes much less hitting the beaches of the Bahamas.
As their wont for the past couple of years, members of the council will convene in the warm confines of CenterPlace next Tuesday, beginning promptly at 8:30 a.m. While snacks and coffee will be served, the entire day until 4:30 p.m. – except for a brief half-hour lunch – will pretty much consist of a menu of city needs, wants and “can we afford it?” questions.
With the council unanimously agreeing that the Sullivan Road Bridge reconstruction project is the No. 1 future capital-needs project for the city, it’s expected that the city’s lobbyist in Olympia for the 2012 legislative session will bring council members up to speed on the possibility of securing any state funding to get the work done. Currently the city has about $10 million of the projected $20 million construction job in the bank.
Once the money is in hand, the city should be prepared to move quickly with construction plans for the aging southbound bridge, which was built in 1951.
“It’s got to be our highest priority right now,” Towey said Monday.
There is one item, however, that won’t be discussed next Tuesday as a capital projects possibility.
At Tuesday night’s study session meeting, the mayor said he wasn’t prepared to go any further into exploring the possibility of establishing “quiet zones” at Union Pacific rail crossings north of Trent Avenue at Park and Vista roads. Some council members have been in favor of spending $83,000 for a consultant to examine the scope of work needed to quell train whistles at the crossings, but Towey said there has been no funding source identified for the $1.5 million it could take to do the job.
“We have not identified a revenue stream for the project itself,” Towey told the council. “We’d have to dig into our reserves. The question is, does this rise to the level of an emergency?”
Newest Council Member Ben Wick said the ongoing “Bridging the Valley” project will eliminate the need for quiet zones as each crossing in the city will be grade-separated so vehicles will never have to go over tracks.
“I’d rather focus on that,” he said.
But Council Member Dean Grafos said that project could take decades, and there are Valley neighborhoods that have been adversely affected by the train noise as rail traffic increases.
“We’re not here to just pile up our reserves and not help our citizens,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels then made a motion to have the item removed from the 2012 budget process. He was supported by Towey, Wick and Council Member Chuck Hafner.
What definitely will be discussed, however, is ongoing street preservation. Steve Worley, senior project engineer, told council members that the city has a unique opportunity to partner with Vera Water and Power for a street preservation project between 16th and 32nd avenues on Evergreen Road. The utility needs to construct a 20-inch waterline under Evergreen between 19th and 32nd in 2012, but city staff has been eying that arterial for improvements due to its poor condition.
The project would cost the city $684,000, but Vera would then compensate the city for its portion of the work.
Some council members wonder, however, if the city is rushing too fast to do work on Evergreen if there are other streets in worse shape.
“My gripe has been for road preservation,” Hafner said. “I think we need to look at roads that are worse than Evergreen.”
Schimmels countered that this was a good opportunity for the city to save money in the long run.
“I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t take advantage of this,” he said.
Neil Kersten, public works director, said a complete list of streets and their current condition will be provided at next Tuesday’s retreat.
While the complete agenda for the retreat was still being decided upon at press time, the council is also likely to touch on:
- Economic development – Always a subject of interest, talks will likely revolve around the continued streamlining of the city’s building permit process and moving the permit center back from an annex into the main City Hall area on the first floor of Redwood Plaza.
- Other capital projects – Everything from the planned gateway sign at Thierman and Sprague to the possibility of an expanded Balfour Park across from University City could be touched on. The Spokane County Library District has floated the possibility of partnering on the purchase of land owned by Pring Corp. for a new library at Sprague and Herald Road, while the city could add to acreage at Balfour Park to the east.
- Budget preview – It’s never too early to start looking at the 2013 city budget. While Spokane Valley has maintained a “steady as she goes” approach, future revenue projections and ongoing expenses.