Spokane County

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At the beginning of the pandemic, when the nation faced rampant unemployment, both landlord and tenant advocates predicted a tsunami of housing issues would overwhelm the courts, homeless, and housing services.

Those advocates are hoping that millions in rental assistance and several tenant laws that go into effect this summer in Washington could resolve that anticipated wave of evictions. But many fear that help won’t be ready in time.

Courtesy of Spokane County Assessors Office

Homeowners in Spokane County saw around a 12.6% increase in their assessed value this year, with some neighborhoods in Spokane seeing significantly higher spikes in value due to the tight housing market.

Courtesy of Charity Doyl

After a year of organizing and activism against hate, Asian and Pacific Islanders in Spokane are coming together, this time to celebrate their culture and heritage.

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The city is changing several of the homeless services it offers, remodeling its newest shelter on Mission Avenue and opening the Cannon Street shelter year-round.

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward announced several updates to how the city responds to homelessness at a presser Thursday. She said the city’s newest shelter on Mission Avenue is being remodeled into a service center which will help people staying there get into long term housing, instead of continuing as a night by night shelter.

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The Washington Board of Health says it will hold a hearing as it decides whether to take action after the removal of former Spokane Regional Health District Health Officer Bob Lutz.

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Spokane County’s filing week closed with nearly 198 candidates filing for 122 public offices.

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Spokane County will soon publish its first local voters guide in more than a decade.

That guide will include both for, and against sections for several local tax levies, a section the county auditor’s office says it needs volunteers to finish.

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Washington’s Department of Natural Resources says fire agencies around the state have already responded to more than 250 wildfires this year. They say that’s several times more than usual this early in the season.

This spring, Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz has her agency focused on preventing fires and minimizing their severity. On Friday, she went to Reflection Lake, near Elk in north Spokane County, to launch a new wildfire prevention campaign.

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Washington health officials say a dozen counties are in danger of moving back to Phase 2, or perhaps even Phase 1, in the state’s coronavirus reopening plan.

They include rural Ferry County.

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Spokane County's interim health officer says the county will likely revert back to more restrictions as both coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

Spokane County has 299 cases and 8.6 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, significantly above the requirements to stay in the state’s current phase of re-opening.

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Spokane County Commissioners have chosen a former Healthcare executive as the final member of a committee that will redraw the county’s election lines.

Spokane County Commissioners Monday unanimously chose Elaine Couture. She retired from her position as Providence executive vice president and regional chief executive for Washington and Montana, earlier this year.

Spokane County Commissioner Mary Kuney, who nominated her, praised her business sense, leadership and community ties before the board voted.

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The committee tasked with expanding the county from three to five commissioner districts was unable to agree on a fifth, and final, member.

Spokane County Hires New Medical Examiner

Apr 12, 2021
Courtesy of Spokane County

Spokane County has hired Dr. Veena Singh as the new Chief Medical Examiner.

The medical examiner’s office does autopsies and forensic investigations into the causes of people’s death in Spokane and the surrounding counties.

Dr. Singh most recently served as a medical examiner for Anoka County, Minnesota and previously has worked in New Mexico and Arizona.

She is also Board Certified in Forensic, Anatomic and Clinical Pathology and is originally from Portland.

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Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced Friday that counties now must fail in two metrics to be moved back a phase in their reopening. The governor says the state won't act unless counties have both a high hospitalization and case rate.

Previously, a county could be forced to regress to more restrictions if they had more than 200 cases per 100,000 people. Now they also must have more than five hospitalizations per 100,000 cases for the state to regress a county to a more restrictive phase.

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Health officials are concerned about rising COVID-19 cases, especially in younger people, that could put the county of compliance with the governor’s re-opening metrics.

To stay in Phase 3 of the governor’s re-opening plan, Spokane County must have less than 200 cases per 100,000 people. As of Wednesday, the county had 183 cases per 100,000. Spokane County Interim Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez said that was concerning.

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Every Sheriff’s Deputy in Spokane County will soon have a body worn camera, a purchase law enforcement and public officials say will make policing more transparent.

On Tuesday Spokane Valley City Council unanimously voted to divide the cost of purchasing body worn cameras with the county. That vote means the Sheriff’s Office has the funds to equip every deputy with a camera by the end of this year.

“This is a tool that will serve as good insurance for our office, to be able to protect them and highlight the good work that they’re doing.”

Courtesy of City of Airway Heights

Nearly four years ago, the city of Airway Heights discovered its water was contaminated by firefighting chemicals used at nearby Fairchild Air Force Base. Now, the city is asking the state of Washington to pitch in for a new source of clean drinking water.

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Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner is offering a possible solution to financing for preserving some desirable property in south Spokane.

The future of the 48-acre Pilcher property, located between Latah Creek and the bottom of High Drive Bluff Park, has been up in the air for a couple years.

 

Spokane County Sheriff Deputies To Equip Body Cameras

Mar 29, 2021
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Every sheriff’s deputy in Spokane County could soon be equipped with body cameras by the end of this year.

The Spokane Police Department has had body cameras for years, along with Lincoln County, which borders Spokane County. Leaders in Spokane County had previously hesitated when asked to purchase them, over concerns about how much it could cost the county to respond to public records requests.

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The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office has determined that a corrections’ officer's use of lethal force against a 70-year-old woman last December was justified.

According to a news release, Sgt. Justin White shot Nancy King after King allegedly pulled a knife and tried to force her way into the jail lobby. The release says White ordered her to drop the weapon before he shot, and she continued to walk toward him.

Courtesy of Spokane Regional Domestic Violence Coalition

Many families have spent the last year isolated, struggling with unemployment and under intense stress. All of those are risk factors for domestic violence.

Current job data show that women were more likely to have lost their jobs during the pandemic then men. That puts women in abusive relationships in difficult, or sometimes dangerous situations.   

Morgan Colburn is the Director of Counseling, Advocacy and Outreach at YWCA Spokane.

Spokane City, County Clash Over Collecting Utility Tax

Mar 16, 2021
Rebecca White/SPR

More than eleven years after approving it, the city of Spokane is considering whether to collect a 20% utility tax on the county’s wastewater plant. If it moves ahead, other local governments say they may sue.

According to Spokane city code, the city may collect 20% of the gross income from a wastewater treatment facility.

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A little more than $217 million in federal stimulus will soon be available in the Spokane region, which local leaders say is a gamechanger for economic recovery.

Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs said the city, which is slated to receive about $84 million, could potentially use the funds to make long-term investments to move the entire economy forward.

“This is a historic amount of money,” Beggs said.  

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Spokane Republicans have chosen a former U.S. Attorney and GOP party leader to help redistrict Spokane County.

Senate Republicans chose Robin Ball, the owner of Sharp Shooters gun shop and the former chair of the Spokane County Republican Party. House Republicans chose Jim McDevitt, a former U.S. Attorney, as their representative in the county's redistricting.

Sen. Mike Padden, who represents Spokane Valley, confirmed the nominees Tuesday.

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Throughout the pandemic, communities of color have been hit disproportionately hard, with higher death, and hospitalization rates. When the state’s eviction moratorium ends this month, many believe that people of color will be disproportionally impacted as well.  

Terri Anderson, Director of the Spokane Chapter of the Tenant’s Union of Washington State, said Black and Latino families, especially in Spokane, are much more likely to be renters. They were underserved when rental assistance was distributed into the community during the pandemic.

Courtesy of Spokane County

Spokane County Jail staff have asked for a $32 million temporary jail to replace an aging facility near the airport they argue is near the end of its usable life.

The Geiger Jail facility is a 50-year-old former military base which can handle around 300 inmates. Spokane County Detention Services Director Mike Sparber said it has serious sewage and infrastructure problems that could cost millions to fix.

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Tenants, landlords, and housing advocates fear that the Spokane area’s supply of affordable housing may not survive the pandemic.

They are pleading for rental assistance and other measures as a way to transition out of the eviction moratorium.

Steve Corker is worried about what’s going to happen when landlords regain their right to evict tenants who have fallen behind during the pandemic.

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Despite delays in census data caused by the pandemic, the effort to redistrict the state, and the Spokane area will soon be underway.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said despite those delays, state law requires redistricting to start this spring. The deadline for most new boundaries is the end of November.

On Friday the U.S. Census Bureau announced that population data it planned to release to states on March 31 will be pushed back to Sept. 30.

Doug Nadvornick/Spokane Public Radio

The Spokane region was awarded a $700,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation this week to invest in programs that reduce overincarceration in the Spokane County Jail.

Spokane Businesses Eligible To Pick Up Free PPE Tuesday

Dec 20, 2020
Courtesy of Spokane County/Greater Spokane

Spokane County and Greater Spokane will distribute more personal protective equipment to small businesses and non-profits Tuesday at the Fairgrounds.

Cara Coon from Greater Spokane says the county bought these supplies for businesses earlier this year with federal CARES Act dollars.

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