Whether it’s working with regional partners on opening a new wastewater treatment facility this past year or the potential for a new framework for law enforcement, “cooperation” was the watchword for the 2012 “State of the County” address.
Last Friday, Todd Mielke, chairman of the Spokane County Board of Commissioners, took the mic during a breakfast meeting of Greater Spokane Inc. and led the 200 or so in attendance at the Mirabeau Park Hotel through a PowerPoint presentation that hit the touchstones of the past year.
From Mielke’s perspective, the opening of the new Spokane County Regional Water Reclamation Facility at the site of the old stockyards near Trent and Freya definitely ended 2011 on a high note. The facility, which cost $172 million, opened seven months ahead of schedule on Dec. 1 and $1 million under budget. The venture will largely serve the city of Spokane Valley.
Such milestones are impressive, Mielke said, as the county must operate leaner and more efficiently in part due to the $12 million in revenue lost when the cities of Liberty Lake and Spokane Valley incorporated a decade ago. What’s more, the county must also contend with federal and state mandates that stretch resources.
And while making hard money-saving choices – which often mean layoffs or reductions in service -- aren’t always popular, they do keep the county moving forward.
“You can focus on your legacy all you want, or you can roll up your sleeves and get to work,” Mielke said.
A longtime advocate for regionalism – he is also hoping for a countywide partnership for animal control -- Mielke said it’s time to go before constituents of the county and the city of Spokane to see if it’s possible for one law-enforcement agency to serve both entities.
“We’ve spent a lot of time pondering this question,” he said. “It’s time to ask the citizens about regional law enforcement.”
Mielke added that talks have begun with new Spokane Mayor David Condon to begin “a joint effort to measure public opinion and to chart a course forward based on the outcome of that effort.”
To view the 2011-12 annual report, visit www.spokanecounty.org.