Between COG, the HUB, STA and UGA, the latest rendition of the Council of Governments meeting at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center seemed more like an acronym convention than a gathering of leaders from area jurisdictions.
Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard, who originated the idea of a regular meeting of local movers and shakers, held court at the May 20 event and moved efficiently through an agenda that included a diverse range of topics from the latest on Spokane County’s approach to solid waste management to a proposal that would expand the Palouse Scenic Byway to the county’s southern section.
The discussion began with a report from Phil Champlin, executive director of the HUB Sports Center, a 67,000-square-foot multipurpose venue located in Liberty Lake near the boundary of Spokane Valley. Champlin had good news for those in attendance as he chronicled an extensive list of events and programs that now utilize the once-embattled facility.
Champlin, who took over at the helm of the HUB in 2009, described how the building is anticipating receipts of close to $188,000 in rental revenue alone for 2011. Meanwhile, a steady lineup of events, from tournaments featuring volleyball, basketball badminton and wrestling, are expected to have an economic impact on the area of around $3 million this year.
In describing the HUB as “a safe, positive place,” Champlin said the venue continues to establish footing as a regional destination point as well as a popular site for local programs, camps, concerts and leagues. Spokane County, Liberty Lake and Spokane Valley have all contributed funding since 2009 to support the building.
Richard also put in a good word for the HUB’s present and future.
“This facility is critically important,” he said. “It has a positive effect across the entire county.”
Susan Meyer, Spokane Transit Authority CEO, followed Champlin with another encouraging update about an entity emerging from its own financial challenges. After a 3-percent service cut in 2010 and another 7-percent reduction this year, Meyer said she has recommended to the STA board that an additional 7-percent decrease, scheduled for next year, be postponed until 2013.
Meyer also covered some basic tenants of a program known as High Performance Transit Network that would be centralized in downtown Spokane and incorporate one of several transportation options ranging from light rail to electric trolley bus. A committee is currently looking at a future system and funding scenarios, though Meyer emphasized the process would “include lots of input from the public.”
County Commissioner Al French informed attendees that a new interlocal agreement coordinating countywide solid waste management should be in place later this month. The document will then be dispersed to respective towns and cities for review and potential approval or rejection. French added that the agreement could still be modified based on feedback from local leaders.
The new format would act as a nonprofit corporation with a board of directors and what French described as a “weighted voting structure.” Day-to-day matters could be approved by a simple majority representing 45 percent of the county population and 50 percent of the towns and cities while decisions involving financial issues, the hiring of a director or other major contracts would require a vote signifying 45 percent of the population and 60 percent of jurisdictions.
The Urban Growth Area – specifically an update to a 10-year outline last adjusted in 2001 – was next on the agenda. The UGA helps determine an adequate level of required infrastructure such wastewater management, parks and roads in urban areas, although John Pederson with Spokane County’s planning department noted that 20 percent of the county’s growth has been in rural areas since the UGA was established.
Pederson described the document update as “an ongoing process” and said the county would either maintain the current UGA or modify it to remove sections in areas like the West Plains that are not showing patterns of urban development. Pederson also discussed the potential expansion of the UGA map that may include portions of southeast Spokane Valley.
Pederson said the goal is to have an updated UGA document wrapped up by the end of the year. He expressed hope that public interest in the process will improve upon a series of community workshops last year.
“They were lightly attended,” Pederson said. “We welcome more participation.”
Rockford Mayor Micki Harnois closed out the COG agenda with an overview of a campaign to extend the Palouse Scenic Byway into portions of southeast Spokane County. Harnois described how the movement gained significant momentum when the House and Senate approved designation of the requested roadway as a “scenic and recreational highway” earlier this year.
Richard echoed Harnois in trumpeting the ripple effect that could occur if the area was included as part of the Palouse Scenic Byway, acknowledged as a regional and national draw for tourists.
“I think this has some potential to really help these towns,” he said.