Spokane North Notes

A weekly bulletin of the Spokane North Rotary Club

September 22, 2014

Editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink

Program Coordinator: Jim Minkler

          One more week before move: Monday, Sept. 29 is the last scheduled luncheon at the Red Lion River Inn before the club moves to the second floor of The Lincoln Center.  Weekly meetings start there Oct. 6.  The center is at 1316 N. Lincoln, or Lincoln and Sharp.  We are in the Landau Conference Room, which seats up to 60 and is accessible by stairs or an elevator.

          Get social: A family-style social for members, spouses and other guests is scheduled 5:30-8:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 11, at Hidden Acres Farm in Greenbluff.  The farm, at 16802 N. Applewood Lane, is accessible from Day-Mount Spokane Road, via either the Newport Highway (State Route 2) or Argonne and Bruce Roads north of Bigelow Gulch Road.  Members are asked to bring chili or side dishes.  Hayrides and other activities are planned.  Coordinator Jodi Harland said beverages and desserts will be provided by the club.  Sign-ups are open now.

Will Spokane voters invest in Riverfront Park and street upgrades?

            Urban planning teachers often say that, along with personal safety, you can judge the quality of a city by the quality of its streets and parks.

            Two measures of support for parks and streets will be on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.  Together they pose an $85 million question about Spokane residents’ willingness to refinance current debt and extend funding programs to revamp Riverfront Park and to rebuild or expand arterial roadways and set up “sustainable, perpetual street maintenance.”

            Spokane Utilities Department spokesperson Marlene Feist, Parks Director Leroy Eadie and Dallas Hawkins, a project employee with the city’s Business & Development Services Department, provided the details at the Sept. 22 luncheon.

            The trio explained that the ballot has two separate measures, including a one-time, $60 million bond to redo Riverfront and a measure which, with state and federal matching funds, would provide about $5 million a year, leveraged with funding matches into $25 million each year to repair, expand and rebuild streets.  Voters can approve both, either one or neither measure.

            “It’s the same cost as you pay today – 91 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation,” Feist said.

            She explained that Spokane residents now pay 57 cents a year per $1,000 valuation under the 2004 street bond.  Changing to a levy, half of that rate would retire debt refinanced at today’s lower rates, while the other half would be “new investment” for streets.  Hawkins said more heavily-traveled arterials would be priorities, but the revised funding plan could nearly double money available for residential roads.

            Feist said two park bonds, a 1999 general bond and a 2007 “pools and play” bond, total 34 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation.  They would be refinanced so that 12 cents would go to debt repayment and 22 cents for new investment, primarily Riverfront Park.  Spokane’s central park is not self-sustaining, so with bond passage some funds might be freed up for other parks.

            Eadie described the 40-year-old “aging infrastructure” in Riverfront, including bridges which must be rebuilt and a decaying irrigation system which now requires hand watering in some areas.

            The vision for Riverfront Park, Eadie said, “is to become the central gathering place for the region.”   An advisory committee headed by Inlander publisher Ted McGregor, spent a year meeting with residents and consultants before developing a master plan which the 11-member Park Board approved unanimously this summer.

            Eadie said the elements include “active and passive spaces, a central plaza for meetings and events, a realigned Howard Street Promenade and a sustainable revenue plan.”  The current IMAX Theater would be demolished and removed, he said, adding that “there is a central theme; we want to pull events and activities into a central plaza.”

            “We have added a lot of green space and some hard surfaces,” Eadie said.  The North Bank, “now a quiet space,” would have some development, playgrounds and parking, he said.

            He envisions moving the ice rink from the center of the park to the gondola meadow, adjacent to the runners’ statues.  He said that after seasonal ice skating – no hockey rink with dasher boards is planned – the hard surface in warmer weather could be used for roller skating, ping pong, chess games with life-sized pieces, or any other of a number of activities.  Eadie said major attractions like the Hoopfest Center Court and Pig Out have outgrown the meadow and could be moved to the central plaza.

            If the park bond passes – and a 60 percent supermajority approval is required – the detailed design competition will begin a four-year build-out process, Eadie said.  The $60 million total includes $20 million for park grounds, infrastructure and playgrounds; $24 million for the Pavilion Event Center; $4.5 million for a new Looff Carousel Building and visitor center; $2.8 million for public safety, security cameras and improved lighting; $2.2 million to relocate the ice rink; $2 million for improved park shelters and a $4.5 million reserve contingency.

            He noted that Coeur d’Alene’s McEuen Park spent $20 million on a 15-acre makeover, so the cost per acre in Riverfront’s nearly 100-acre footprint would be far less.

            The street measure, because it is a levy, needs only 50 per cent approval for passage.  The switch to a levy, Hawkins said, is more of a “pay as you go plan.”

            Hawkins said the 2004 bond “got us about 60 percent of where we need to be.”  The 10-year street building component of the existing bond has a 20-year payout, so about half the debt would be refinanced.  “I was involved in the 2004 bond, and I knew that we would have to go back to voters and double down,” he said.

            Under an “integrated approach,” which involves all affected departments, the $5 million in levy proceeds, along with $5 million from the Utilities Department for sewers, water main and storm water projects, would qualify for the state and federal money, Hawkins said.

            A citizen transportation board would provide oversight of street spending, “using a measurement performance tool every year,” he said, adding that plans for bike paths, pedestrian walks and crosswalks would be included in the programs.

            After the meeting, Hawkins shared the proposal for the first two years of projects.

            Included for 2015 are the Monroe-Lincoln corridor from Main south to 8th Ave.; Ray Street from 3rd to 29th; Indiana from Division to Hamilton; Rowan from A to Monroe; and, Havana from 37th to 57th.

            Proposed projects in 2016 include Five Mile Road, from Lincoln to Strong roads,; TJ Meenach Drive from the bridge to Northwest Blvd.; Clarke Ave. from the Sandifur Bridge to Monroe; Sharp Ave. from Pearl to Hamilton; and, Sprague from Division to Altamont.

            The two funding measures offer big plans and big dreams.  The big question is how much do local residents want to invest in their city’s quality?