CIVICS | This week you’ll see a lot of routine reorganizing, but there are some bigger items, too, like allocating money to fund shelter beds for the unhoused, discussions about sexual education in schools and finalizing the process for leasing out the former East Central Library.
Spokane public meetings are back in business after the holidays and some of them are coming out swinging. This week you’ll see a lot of routine reorganizing — board business like electing chairpeople and committee appointments — but there are some bigger items, too, like allocating money to fund shelter beds for the unhoused, decisions about sexual education in schools and finalizing the process for leasing out the former East Central Library.
Spokane City Council
Old East Central Library plans: The city council is set to vote on a resolution that will define the process, timeline and criteria for getting community input on any potential occupants of the former East Central Library. The resolution is in response to Mayor Nadine Woodward unilaterally moving the south Spokane police precinct into the old library building, which drew backlash from council members and the East Central community. This item came out of the Urban Experience Committee in late December. You can read more about it here.
Low-income housing incoming: There will be a hearing on the vacation of (essentially, the renunciation of the city’s claims to) a small public right-of-way near Highbridge Park so that Catholic Charities can use it to build a new low-income housing development. Catholic Charities has already purchased the properties on either side of the little road, they just need the city to vacate 7th Avenue east of Government Way so they connect. The properties they bought include a closed down motel on Sunset Boulevard and what appears to be a small office building on Government Way.
It’s important to note that this property is close to the West Hills Neighborhood, though technically outside its boundaries. That neighborhood council filed a lawsuit to oppose the Catholic Charities Catalyst project, which opened recently, so don’t be surprised if there’s opposition to this project as well.
A little reorganization: In one resolution, the city council will be deciding which members will sit on the various boards, committees and commissions that keep the city running. This includes committees like the Public Safety & Community Health Committee that oversees police and fire department matters and the Finance and Administration Committee, which makes a lot of financial decisions that are then sent to the full council for a vote.
In another resolution, the city council will be updating and approving their rules of procedure for 2023.
Urban Experience Committee
Expo+50 Projects: In preparation for the 50th anniversary of Expo 74, we’re getting a bunch of cool stuff in and around the river, including a zipline. The Urban Experience Committee is going to discuss funding for four infrastructure projects that would be completed by the summer 2024 celebration. The projects include: renovation of the South Suspension Bridge in Riverfront Park, completion of a trail section that would finish the Great Gorge Loop Trail, rehabilitation of the Riverfront Park parking lot along Post Street to the south of the Post Street Bridge, including an improved connection from south of the bridge to the Centennial Trail, and the addition of a zipline from the CSO 26 plaza on Spokane Falls Boulevard to Redband Park in Peaceful Valley.
The projects will use $600,000 from the Riverfront Park renovation bond and a $1.4 million RCO grant from the state. The zipline will be built by a private vendor and will not use any city funds but will be built on land owned by the city. The work on the trail section already had money allocated to it in 2024, so that will be moved to 2023. The trail section will cost an additional $2 million, which is proposed to come from REET 2 funds (Real Estate Excise Tax “second quarter percent”). Excise is a tax on home sales, not a property tax.
Shelter bed money: The Urban Experience Committee will discuss a request to allocate $3.35 million from criminal justice funds designated for homelessness to shelter providers so they can keep the beds and services that were originally funded with COVID money.
According to the agenda packet, the original Notice of Funding Availability was for $2 million and the city got applications that totaled $4.4 million. The RFP committee decided to recommend the city fund all seven applicants at about 76% of their requested amounts.
Under contract: The committee will discuss the $5.6 million contract for the Salvation Army to operate the Trent shelter through December 2023. Most of the funding for the contract — $4 million — comes from American Rescue Plan funds, but it specifies that if any other funds become available, to use those instead.
Remote surveillance: The committee will be discussing a special budget ordinance for a mobile security camera that the police department can station at crime “hot spots.” The camera in question would be a LiveView Technologies D3 Mobile Security Unit and would be rented for a year at $2,945 per month (the item says its a $29,940 total, but that appears to be an error. 12 months would total $35,340). Councilman Zack Zappone is sponsoring the item and cites increasing crime, specifically shootings, as the reason for the camera. The funding for the camera will come from increasing the Public Safety Personnel Fund and allocating that money to the camera. The city council is set to vote on this item on January 23.
Park it here: The committee will discuss a resolution that would declare the council’s intention to establish a sales and use tax deferral program to encourage the redevelopment of underdeveloped lands in urban areas to add affordable housing. The city is specifically looking at underutilized surface parking lots downtown. This program is authorized by State Senate Bill 5755, signed into law in March 2022.
Landlord Tenant Ordinance Town Hall
The Spokane City Council is holding a town hall for landlords, tenants and the public about the tenant protection ordinance that will be voted on Jan. 23.
Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 5 p.m.
Northeast Community Center
4001 N. Cook Street, Spokane, WA
Housing workshop: There will be a “Building Opportunity for Housing” workshop at the meeting. This is part of the city’s outreach efforts to understand what residents want in terms of housing diversity and choice as they develop a plan to make long-term amendments to the city’s Comprehensive Plan and municipal ordinances. The city’s current “Building Opportunity and Choices for All” ordinance is only an emergency measure to allow for missing middle housing in the short-term. Read more on that here.
Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 2 p.m.
The meeting is hybrid with access link in the agenda
Council Chambers in the Lower Level of City Hall
808 W Spokane Falls Blvd
Board of County Commissioners
Elections: It’s the first regular meeting of the new Board of County Commissioners with its two additional commissioners and full five-person roster. As the first meeting of the year, the first order of business is to elect a chair and vice chair for the board.
Sewer fees: The board will have a public hearing at the Jan. 24 meeting about raising the Sewer Service Fee by about 2.1%. The agenda packet does not elaborate on the reason for the fee raise.
Tuesday, Jan. 10 at 2 p.m.
Public Works Building
1026 W Broadway, Spokane, WA
Commissioner’s Hearing Room, Lower Level
Central Valley School District Board of Directors
Sex ed: The CVSD school board will have a work session on adopting a sexual health curriculum that is consistent with the state’s Health Education Learning Standards. Once the curriculum is adopted, grades 6 through 12 will get the new lessons. The agenda item specifies that “Identified lessons will be scheduled and communicated with families so they always have an ‘opt out’ option, upon request.” Some of the goals of the curriculum include providing “medically accurate, bias free, age appropriate” materials and providing the information to keep students safe from sexually transmitted infections, unplanned pregnancies and sexual assault.
A written report to the school board will be available at the Jan. 23 meeting and the board will vote on it at the Feb. 13 meeting.
Old school for sale: The CVSD board will discuss a resolution that would allow the district’s superintendent to negotiate the sale of the former Keystone Elementary School property. The resolution also allows the district to continue using the property as the Family Engagement Center, which hosts a clothing and food bank for students and their families, for a designated amount of time while they find another place for it. Modern Electric Water Company, the utility company in Spokane Valley, submitted a letter of interest in buying the property for just over $1.5 million, stating that it will serve as an investment for the company while supporting the community through the family center. The school board declared the property no longer necessary for district needs and authorized it to be put up for sale last June. The Boys and Girls Club currently leases a portion of the building and would continue at the property for another seven years.
Mead School District Board of Directors
Look ahead: The Mead board of directors will be approving their 2023-2024 school year calendar, so you should be able to start planning time off once they do.
Employee termination: Usually personnel actions are handled in the consent agenda, but the board has an action item for an employee termination. There’s not any information on the agenda indicating who it may be or why other than an executive session reviewing the performance of a public employee. The fact that it’s on the agenda as an action item indicates it might be for a position higher up in the school district.
To protect employee privacy, human resources decisions like this are one of the few valid uses for a public board to enter executive session (shutting off the cameras, excusing the public, and meeting privately) that Washington Open Public Meetings laws allow, so don’t be surprised if this item ends up being discussed out of public view.