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Economy

AH council to discuss backing STA tax measure

Cheney Free Press of Cheney, Washington

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The Airway Heights City Council voted to move four items forward from its Feb. 22 study to the March 7 regular meeting for consideration, items that included a resolution stating the city's position on a potential ballot measure increasing sales tax for use by the Spokane Transit Authority.

The STA attempted to pass a similar measure in April 2015 that failed. That measure would have increased the sales tax in the county by 3/10ths of 1 percent. The proposed measure later this year would increase the tax 2/10ths of 1 percent.

Two projects that would have been funded by passage of the April increase, a Central City Line in Spokane and a West Plains Transit Center at the State Route 902/Medical Lake interchange on Interstate 90, have received funding from outside sources. STA officials have said the proposed 2/10ths of 1 percent would help maintain and expand bus services in the region, including adding direct service between Airway Heights and Medical Lake, more trips and buses to the Airway Heights route during busy travel times and improve West Plains rural highway stops.

Development Services Director Derrick Braaten speculated it would take a year or two before STA were to provide the additional route services on the West Plains, should the ballot measure be approved. The transit center, on the other hand, would move more quickly.

"My understanding is they're anxious to get moving on that," Braaten said.

According to a staff report, Airway Heights has the highest sales tax rate in the county at 8.9 percent. Adding 2/10ths to that would bring it to 9.1 percent.

Council members expressed concerns about the impacts to Airway Heights, but also voiced their feelings on the need for public transportation on the West Plains.

"Let the public vote," Mayor Kevin Richey said.

Council also voted unanimously to move forward a pair of agreements linked by a common thread — Fire Chief Mitch Metzger. The first agreement between the city and Spokane County Fire District 10 would allow Metzger to serve as assistant fire chief to the district on an interim basis, while the second is a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the city and Metzger detailing the terms of that service.

Under the terms of the contract, District 10 would pay the city $4,440 per month for assistant fire chief services along with $250 per month for the chief's use of a city vehicle in performance of those duties. Under the MOU, Metzger would receive $3,300 a month from the city in payment for his services, with $1,650 per month being paid to the Fire Equipment Reserve Fund.

The length of both agreements is one year from Jan. 1, 2016 to Jan. 1, 2017, leading Councilman Doyle Inman to ask Metzger if he was already providing the district assistant fire chief services. Metzger replied he was not, and that if the agreements were approved, the dates would be changed to reflect the new starting time.

Metzger said he isn't sure how the daily schedule would go with District 10, but noted that many of the calls he currently goes on with Airway Heights will also have a unit from District 10. The fire chief always has his pager in case he's needed, and the only time Metzger said he isn't on duty is when he might have a family engagement requiring his attention.

Metzger said that during his time working for both fire agencies he will have the opportunity to analyze how each works, hoping to find areas of inefficiencies where costs can be cut without impacting services.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.



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Original Publication Date: March 3, 2016



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