Spokane County

Rebecca White/SPR

The panel tasked with dividing Spokane County into five new commissioner districts may be less than a week away from finalizing a compromise.

The group, made up of two Democrats, two Republicans and an independent chair, has clashed over the months long process on how to divide the city of Spokane, and how to handle the West Plains and the South Hill. Their compromise map, tentatively agreed to this afternoon, has two Republican districts and two Democratic districts, the southwest urban end of Spokane will likely be a swing district.

Rebecca White

The community got its first look at Spokane County’s 2022 budget Tuesday.

Revenues for the general fund, which is what the county uses to cover most of the services the public interacts with, are estimated to be higher than last year, about $221 million.

Courtesy of the ZoNE

Northeast Spokane includes one of the lowest income census tracts in the city. A new survey on rent increases found 78% of respondents were worried about staying housed. The survey comes as Spokane County sees historically low vacancy rates, and big rent increases.

Spokane Regional Health District

Hospitals in Spokane County are delaying all but emergency care due to the massive influx of COVID-19 patients.

Delays in surgeries and a lack of preventative care during the pandemic could impact the community’s long-term health.

Rebecca White/SPR

A judge ruled that an initiative that would have barred the Spokane City Council from regulating natural gas and hydropower will not be allowed to appear on the November ballot.

The “Spokane Clean Energy Protection Act” ballot act was sparked in opposition to a draft sustainability plan that called for the city to phase out natural gas hook-ups.

Spokane County Breaks Rockford City Council Race Tie

Aug 26, 2021
Spokane County

The Spokane County Auditor broke a tie for the town of Rockford today.

The race between Rockford town council candidates Ivan Willmschen and Rachelle Arriaga had a little more than 100 votes. The two candidates were tied for second.

Under state law, ties must be broken using a game of chance. Spokane County auditor Vicky Dalton used a milk bottle, and a ball representing each candidate.

Candidate Willmschen’s designated ball fell out of the milk bottle first, making him the winner. He will move onto the general election.

Spokane County to Recount Votes for Two Primary Races

Aug 17, 2021
Courtesy of Luc Jasmin and Naghmana Sherazi

Two Spokane County races will be recounted next week due to a close margin in a Spokane City Council Race and a tie for second place in the town of Rockford.

The Spokane County election results were verified Tuesday. In the final count Jonathan Bingle came in first in the race for the Northeast Spokane City Council District, and candidate Naghmana Sherazi came in second.

Candidate Luc Jasmin however, was only four votes behind Sherazi, which triggered a recount for that race.

Rebecca White/SPR

Since Dolores DeSantis and her husband were moved to the Spokane area by the Air Force a year ago, they’ve tried to buy a house. They were outbid every time.

After a notice from her landlord last week, many rentals feel out of reach as well.

Her rent is going up by 37%.

Quazoo.com

Fairchild Air Force Base is preparing for a Department of Defense mandate requiring service members to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Missy Nadvornick

Ballots are now in the hands of Washington for the August 3 primary election.

Voters are receiving some help this year. For the first time, counties are required to compile their own voters’ pamphlets to provide information about local candidates and measures.

Rebecca White/SPR

The group of community members and public officials who have been meeting for seven years to push for criminal justice reform in Spokane County met for what is likely the last time Wednesday.

During that meeting, many members expressed frustration, saying they’re concerned the new group will not focus on racial equity and have less community input.

20 Spokane County Deaths Linked to Heat

Jul 9, 2021

In Spokane 20 deaths and many more medical emergencies have been linked to the heat wave that swept through the Pacific Northwest last week.

Many of the people who died due to heat exposure were found alone, without air conditioning. Health officials expect more deaths this summer across the region as unusually hot weather continues.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, 78 deaths have been attributed to the heat, but the number is likely much higher due to delays in reporting from local governments and health districts.

Courtesy of National Weather Service

  

The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Wednesday that 17 people in Spokane County have died from heat related illnesses in the last week.

The Pacific Northwest experienced record breaking temperatures, with the city of Spokane reaching an all-time high of 109 last Tuesday.

According to the Medical Examiner, the county saw more heat exposure deaths in the last seven days, than in the last six years. Since 2015, there had been 13 heat exposure deaths.

Evacuation Ordered For 250-Acre Fire Outside Cheney

Jul 5, 2021
Spokane Fire District 8 Firefighters

Firefighters worked overnight to contain a wildfire burning near Cheney.

As of Monday evening, the Andrus Road fire had charred more than 250 acres, according to a tweet from Washington State Patrol Jeff Sevigney. It’s burning near the Marshall Cemetery.

Eleven Deaths in Spokane Area Linked to Record Heat

Jul 1, 2021
Courtesy of National Weather Service

In the aftermath of the record-breaking heat wave, the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s office has linked 11 deaths to the hazardous conditions.

The medical examiner has not yet completed autopsies on many of those death to confirm the cause.

Courtesy of Spokane County

The record-breaking heat hitting the northwest is damaging infrastructure, including roads in the greater Spokane region.

At least one unincorporated Spokane County road has been closed due to damage caused by the heat. Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter, the information and outreach coordinator for Spokane County Public Works, said the heat makes the road more susceptible to damage.

“When you’ve got a road surface that’s softening because of the heat, those tires are going to chew up the road surface. It’s not unlike studded tires chewing up asphalt.”

Kalispel Tribe Purchases Spokane County Race Track

Jun 29, 2021
Kalispel tribe of indians

Spokane County announced Tuesday that it’s selling its raceway in Airway Heights to the Kalispel Tribe for six-point-one million dollars.

The tribe was reportedly the first to offer to buy the 243-acre property. A competing buyer made counteroffers, but the tribe upped its bid and won the right to buy the property.

The sale includes not just the raceway oval, but existing buildings, some business-related equipment and the land on which they sit.

Rebecca White/SPR

Spokane County has had three commissioners for most of its history as a government, but will have five elected by district starting next year.

A committee has been chosen to draw the lines for the new districts and has about five months left to complete the task. The group’s chair says they need feedback from the public now.

Official public hearings and information sessions start next month.

Rebecca White/SPR

  Spokane County’s apartment vacancy rate has dropped to a historic low, a symptom of an ongoing housing crisis worsened by the pandemic that is impacting renters in most counties across the state.

According to the University of Washington’s Center for Real Estate Research, Spokane County’s vacancy rate for apartments is .5%.  Several other growing Eastern Washington counties, such as Yakima, Benton and Franklin Counties also had vacancy rates below 1%. King County’s vacancy rate was actually higher than usual, with about 7.1% of apartments being vacant in the spring apartment assessment.

Rebecca White/SPR

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.

Rebecca White/SPR

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.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

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.

Rebecca White/SPR

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

Rebecca White/SPR

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.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR


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.

TVW screenshot

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.

Rebecca White/SPR

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.

Rebecca White/SPR

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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