The Spokane Valley City Council approved a plan to help bridge the gap in what the city has in the bank vs. what it needs to pay for continued street maintenance.
But at least three members – including Mayor Tom Towey – are more concerned about the potential need to pay for another bridge: the one that crosses the Spokane River at Sullivan Road.
“I’m kind of hesitant of going forward with this,” Towey said before the council took its vote on April 10. “We have Sullivan Bridge hanging over our heads – as of today, that’s a $10 million liability.”
The city already has about half of the money needed to pay for a replacement of the aging bridge, which had been weight-restricted in 2011 until temporary fixes were put in place on the southbound expanse. But if the city doesn’t receive federal grant funding – and the high competition nationally, and the North Spokane Corridor locally, does not help – then the city could be on the hook for the remainder of the cost or face the possibility of closing the 60-year-old bridge for good.
“I would suggest we wait until the October inspection,” Towey said. “Let’s see how it’s holding up -- because right now, there’s no funding available.”
Council Members Gary Schimmels and Ben Wick agreed and joined the mayor in not supporting the rest of the council’s desire to use just over $2 million from the city’s 2011 general fund balance over $26 million for street-preservation efforts. Instead, the trio favored the city finance director’s suggestion to use just 40 percent of whatever was left over the $26 million amount this year.
Despite the mayor’s concerns of using “one-time money” for road preservation, other members of the council were swayed by the current positive bidding climate due to the flat economy and the fact that, at the end of the day, there would still be $26 million left in the bank.
“I’d like to see us get on some of this,” said Council Member Arne Woodard.
Council Member Brenda Grassel agreed, adding that it would only be for the time being.
“I would say that we do have a road crisis,” she said. “We’re not going to do the 100 percent for perpetuity.”
The council also approved the first reading of the city’s updated sign code, which would loosen several rules based on suggestions by the city’s Planning Commission. A second reading, and final approval, is set for the April 24 council meeting.