Spokane North Notes
A weekly bulletin of the Spokane-North Rotary Club
March 12, 2012
Help wanted: Who said there are no jobs available? Bill Hiatt is looking for four or five people who can make every penny count at the Guilds’ School penny drive fund-raiser Saturday morning, April 28.
Sales reminder: The club’s raffle ticket deadline is April 16, Steve Boharski reminded members. Also, he said, the $20 packets should sell as one unit (no single ticket sales), and turned in with the packet covers attached to facilitate tracking. Bill Simer noted receipts for the raffle fund raiser, which includes corporate sponsorships, already total $1,200.
Tasty choices: President-elect Jodi Harland, just back from Rotary’s regional PETS training for future club presidents, said conversations with other incoming presidents offer new ideas on potential club meeting sites. Aurora Northwest said it moved from the Cathay Inn on North Division, not because of limited menu selections, but because the district said the restaurant was outside its geographic area. That club now meets at the Prospector’s in Wandermere.
Jodi said Cathay offers three entrée choices for about $10. Our club’s luncheon contract with the Red Lion River Inn expires March 31. We now pay $15 for a one-choice plate service. The buffet we used to have would have cost $18 a plate. The club board will chew on the issue when it meets March 20. A show-of-hands vote showed a majority interest in the Cathay, with a strong minority interest in staying at the River Inn.
Scholars sought: President Jim Minkler said announcements have been sent to area schools for the club’s Gerald Saling college scholarships.
New city council leader
must be a utility fielder
Spokane’s new City Council president says his City Hall honeymoon is almost over.
Ben Stuckart told the club March 12 that the big challenge is funding the looming project to separate storm water from sewage may be a $600 million challenge – “the largest capital campaign in Spokane history.”
“About 12 times a year the sewer system overflows and sewage spills into the Spokane River,” Stuckart said. The State Department of Ecology mandated building of overflow storage tanks in 1994 and gave the city until 2017 to complete the process, he said.
But Stuckart said since council and mayoral terms are four years, it was easier to“kick the can down the road” and leave the problem-solving to future councils. Now, however, time is nearly up and DOE is fighting even a one-year extension proposed by some legislators.
Large sewer-improvement projects on the North Side have been constructed with the problem in mind, but most of the South Side needs separation or storage capacity, Stuckart said.
The city can “bond out” about half of the projected costs, but the other $300 million must come from rate-payers, who could see increases from $49 to $75 a month on their bills.
Stuckart already heard a lot of comments about city water rates, during his seven months on the campaign trail – where he knocked on 16,000 doors – and his first two months in office.
He said the previous council and administration “had done a poor job switching from a base rate to a consumption fee schedule.” Thus, while the 53 percent of users whose water bills did not increase much remained silent, the 47 percent who saw large increases protested loudly and often. Meanwhile, water department reserves “have been taken from $30 million down to zero,” he said.
Stuckart brings a can-do determination to his job.
The Spokane native is a Lewis and Clark and Gonzaga University grad, who has managed a $34 million-a-year ticket selling business. He also started Communities in Schools of Spokane County, a collaborative organization which annually helps thousands of students.
Given the city’s continuing budget woes and pending challenges, he was asked why he wanted to be council president. “I’m from Spokane and I love this city,”Stuckart said, adding that his interest was sparked when served on a finance committee and “saw a lack of councilman understanding” about the money matters. He defeated former mayor Dennis Hession for the job.
Stuckart cited the Garland and South Perry districts as areas where small business has prospered. Part of the success there, he said, was not having too much regulation of parking lots, sidewalk setbacks and building height transitions.
Stuckart talked about a Browne’s Addition restaurant which had to close its outdoor seating for nine months because city rules required off-street parking when the outdoor seats boosted capacity. He vows to fight “rules that inhibit small business growth.”
And he hopes pilot projects in West Central, buoyed by the Kendall Yards development, can mirror the success of Garland and South Perry.
Stuckart said he wants to increase industrial development in Northeast Spokane, especially the area some call “Dog Town.”
“Hillyard has lost four huge manufacturing firms in the last 50 years, and here we have 185 acres which could be developed,” he said.
He said he toured street by street, and saw no water service, no sidewalks and no paving in much of the area.
“Infrastructure matters,” Stuckart said. “The most important thing you can do, if you are selling your city, is to have something to sell.” He said a fully-developed Dog Town, near the new freeway corridor, could compete nicely with industrial sites in Liberty Lake and the West Plains. “The area was annexed in 1925 and it still hasn’t been paved,” he said. Two rail lines, with spurs, already serve the area, he noted.
The council has created a public development authority, the first public-private collaboration since Riverpark Square, which can issue bonds to make the site move-in ready, Stuckart said.
He hopes similar strategies can work for the vacant Ridpath Hotel site, “a two-block hole” in downtown Spokane.
Manpower levels in some areas pose still more challenges, Stuckart said. “If we lay off two more firefighters, we’ll have to close another fire station – and we have already gone from 18 stations down to 15, despite 10 percent population growth,” he said, noting a new fire station is needed in the Eagle Ridge area of southwest Spokane.
Considering all of the challenges, it hasn’t been much of a honeymoon for Ben Stuckart after all.