Spokane Valley Online
The Spokane Valley News Herald
City of Spokane Valley, WA
Balanced budget, new City Hall championed

06/01/2018

By MIKE HUFFMAN
Managing Editor

Spokane Valley Mayor Rod Higgins delivered his State of the City address on May 23 at CenterPlace.
The text of his speech follows:


Good morning. Thank you for joining us this morning as we review the State of our City. Before we get into those intricacies, however, there are a number of people in the audience I’d like to introduce.

Would you please stand as I mention you? It’s customary to ask the audience to hold your applause until the end, but that never works, so applaud away.

Deputy Mayor Pam Haley, who will later be joining me as part of today’s presentation.

My fellow council members:
Arne Woodard
Sam Wood
Ben Wick
Linda Thompson
Brandi Peetz

More than 15 years ago, the people of Spokane Valley took charge of their future by creating a new City. They envisioned “a community of opportunity, where individuals and families can grow and play, and businesses will flourish and prosper.” With a united effort from the city’s inception, we’ve moved steadily toward accomplishing that vision. Lately, with recent recruiting successes, we’ve begun to move at an even faster pace.

We remain focused on conserving the conditions and culture upon which our developing future is being built. That includes a bright vision that ensures the safety of our citizens while supporting growth in business, jobs and population while enhancing the city’s attractiveness, livability and quality of life.

Last September, we moved into our new city hall, a cornerstone not imagined in those early days of the city. The total cost of the project was $14.1 million. The project was delivered on time, on budget and without raising taxes. Over the next 30 years, the building will save you, the taxpayer, at least $8 million over what we were paying in rent. And, I say again, it was done without raising taxes.

In addition to providing a centrally-located facility where citizens can access their city government and services, the new city hall provides a centerpiece for the city, enhancing our unique identity, giving us a new sense of community pride. It is already serving as a catalyst for economic development and further public and private investment in the core of Spokane Valley.

We’ve been extraordinarily active in our business development efforts; and I’m pleased to share with you some successes. Our initiatives to streamline permitting have gained wide, positive attention and are making it easy to locate a business here in the Valley. The expansion of our industrial land capacity has had almost immediate positive effects.

There has been much coverage in the news about Katerra, the company that chose to locate its new cross-laminated-timber manufacturing facility in Spokane Valley. In addition to 150 construction-specific jobs, the company notes its 250,000-square foot facility will “provide hundreds of jobs, while stimulating the growth of thousands of additional jobs through the larger supply chain and associated industries, including design, engineering, and construction.”

It wasn’t just chance that Katerra chose Spokane Valley. Much of it was due to your city’s active efforts joined by Greater Spokane Inc. to create the conditions that attract business development. Those efforts included partnering with Spokane County to extend sewer service to the area.

As part of that project, we also rebuilt Euclid Avenue to help accommodate heavy truck traffic. Going the extra mile to fulfil our promise of being business friendly, we worked with the county to ensure the all the necessary infrastructure at that site was adequate for Katerra’s needs.

We’re also working to finalize a Planned Action Ordinance for the Centennial Business Park in northeast Spokane Valley. It’s a comprehensive review of available and needed infrastructure, together with recommendations for mitigating adverse environmental impacts. When that program is completed, it will trim at least six weeks off the City’s already streamlined permitting process, providing future development projects with predictability for costs and timelines.

Another project that will help make Spokane Valley more attractive for development and improve traffic flow is the Barker/BNSF Railway crossing at Trent Avenue.

The project will replace the existing railroad crossing with an overpass over the rails. Barker Road will then descend to a roundabout on Trent Avenue, facilitating traffic moving safely and efficiently through the Barker/Trent intersection.

When the project is completed, and the area fully developed, it will have a significant impact on our economy. It will expedite traffic moving from north to the south, enabling a smoother flow in and out of our expanded industrial park.

In addition, over a 25-year period, it will generate 9,800 new jobs statewide and an estimated $2 billion in total economic output, as well as a projected $12.3 million in new general fund revenue to our city and $50.8 million in new revenue to the state of Washington.

Completion of the Barker/Trent project is a major step in enhancing the quality of life in Spokane Valley. It will improve safety by eliminating one of the top twenty most dangerous railway crossings in Washington State. In addition, it will increase emergency access by eliminating interminable waits at that crossing as more than 55 trains in a day, most more than a mile in length, pass by.

With the recent announcement that we have been awarded a $9 million federal TIGER grant, thanks to the assistance of Sens. Patty Murray, and Maria Cantwell, and Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, all the estimated funding for the project has been secured. Design of the Barker/Trent rail crossing project is now underway with construction to begin as soon as late 2019.

The city is also working to improve the Barker corridor, including widening Barker from the Spokane River to the Trent rail crossing. On the southern portion of Barker, its intersection with Interstate 90 and intersections from Mission to Eighth Avenue are getting serious attention.

Growth in the area has resulted in significant congestion and safety issues. The city will be working closely with the Washington State Department of Transportation, Spokane County and Liberty Lake to identify improvements, and develop funding sources to implement this badly needed project.

The city is also turning its attention to the rail crossing at Pines Road and Trent Avenue. Like the Barker/Trent project, it’s a critical part of the City’s plan to provide access to an area that is ripe for development.

It goes without saying that it will improve the quality of life for those who live nearby, and it will address yet another of the top 20 most dangerous rail crossings in the state, while providing further business opportunities for our city to grow.

All of these projects – from the new city hall to the Barker Road rail crossing – make our region very attractive to individuals and families looking for a community that offers reduced commute times, affordable housing, and an improved quality of life.

In addition, Spokane Valley has a solid reputation as a City that’s financially sound and well managed. It enjoys consistently responsible budgeting, and restrained spending; accomplishing city services with a staff of less than 90 full-time employees for a population approaching 100,000.

Each year, the city undertakes a detailed and collaborative process with councilmembers and the community to develop a balanced budget that prioritizes short and long-term fiscal goals. As the year progresses, revenues and expenditures are constantly reviewed and monitored. Close attention to how we use taxpayer money is one reason we have not taken the one percent per year increase in property taxes allowed by state statute since 2010.

The city’s first duty to its citizens is to ensure their safety. As you might imagine, the city’s single largest expense is our contract with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement.

We successfully re-negotiated our contract with Spokane County for five years through 2022, with an option for two five year renewals with Council approval. That new agreement emphasizes increased coordination between the city and the sheriff’s office, tailoring those contracted services more closely to our city’s needs.

Budgeted at $25.5 million for 2018, our public safety costs, including law enforcement, prosecution, indigent defense and incarceration expenses, account for 62 percent of our general fund budget.

Monitoring and containing those expenses is a top priority. By working closely with Chief Werner, we’ve identified cost savings while promoting systems to assist our police officers in reducing crime and enhancing the safety of our community.

Across the nation, cities, counties and states are faced with the enormous costs of repairing crumbling infrastructure. We’re fortunate that Spokane Valley’s road infrastructure is relatively new and in reasonably good condition.

Transportation, so basic to our ability to move people as well as goods and services is critical to Spokane Valley’s continued success. To make that happen, our roadways must remain in their current good condition.

It’s imperative that we find a dependable source of financing to create a consistent program to keep our roads in good condition. By not allowing our roads to deteriorate, we avoid the heavy expense of having to completely reconstruct, thus saving time and money.

Two key programs that help us keep our roadways in good condition are the Pavement Management Program and the annually-updated Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program.

Our Pavement Management Program helps maximize the longevity and preservation of our roadways with a constant, comprehensive review of pavement condition and needed repair. By identifying timely, preventive maintenance such as sealing cracks or grinding and overlaying road surfaces, the City saves money by not having to completely rebuild streets.

The city’s Transportation Improvement Plan, or TIP, is updated each year and lists all the transportation projects we plan to accomplish within those six years. The projects are coordinated with other agencies, including Spokane County, the Washington State Department of Transportation, and the Spokane Regional Transportation Council.

The TIP not only lays out plans and budgets for those projects, it’s a requirement in applying for grants to fund them.

In my last State of the City address, and in numerous articles in our City newsletter, and at many council meetings, I’ve spoken about the need to find a consistent, dependable source of funding to keep our roads in good condition.

We’ve been successful at securing state and federal grants to address major road building projects, but we’ve got to preserve and care for what we have.

There are a variety of other challenges as we plan for pavement preservation. Gas tax revenues are flat or declining as fuel efficiency increases. Our telephone tax revenues continue to decline as fewer people use land lines. Rapidly advancing technology makes the search for that dependable funding source very elusive.

One bright spot in that quest is our new solid waste collection services contract with Waste Management which includes a street-wear fee to mitigate the impact of heavily loaded garbage trucks on our roads.

We’ve been successful in applying for grants for building and improving our transportation system, and we continue to improve that system. However, and I emphasize, we must take care of what we have.

Rest assured, continued funding for road maintenance and preservation while holding the line on our budget, is and will remain among our top priorities.

A few weeks ago, council members had the opportunity to congratulate the Central Valley High School Lady Bears basketball team. This group of young women won the 2018 GEICO invitational High School Nationals thus shining a national spotlight on Spokane Valley.

That spotlight grew brighter when the team topped the national girls’ basketball rankings in a USA Today High School Sports computer poll. Their achievements inspired us all and earned that great team a key to our city.

We are fortunate and proud to have great schools in Spokane Valley. Our community is very good at coming together to provide opportunities for our young people to learn and achieve.

Last Saturday, the city joined in sponsoring the Valley Chamber’s Lemonade Day – a program designed to inspire young entrepreneurs as they develop lemonade stand businesses throughout the community. We’re pleased to have participated.

In the future, in working together to address the city’s challenges, it’s essential that we include our youth. They are our future. They are destined to take on the roles we now occupy as business owners, employees, volunteers, public servants, and elected officials. Each of us has a responsibility to encourage and support them, providing opportunities for them to grow and achieve.

In our presentation today, we’ve mentioned several community entities with whom the city partners to achieve its goals. For their cooperation and teamwork, we offer our sincere gratitude!

As your mayor, I encourage you to get involved in your city. Share your comments at a council meeting, or by phone or email.

Spokane Valley, your city, is poised for unparalled growth in 2018 and beyond. As we work together our future looks to be extraordinarily bright.

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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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Phone: (509) 924-2440