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Fired Up About Coal 

Spokane gets to weigh in on coal shipments; plus, money for the skatepark but not homeless men

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The Coal-man Cometh

Those people pissed off about the prospect of a huge increase in Coal Trains coming through Spokane will have a chance to complain to the feds.

As part of an environmental review process for proposed West Coast shipping facilities, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is holding a public hearing in Spokane Valley. If any of half a dozen proposed shipping facilities are built, as many as 60 more coal trains could rumble through Spokane each day.

That means more coal dust in town (possibly dangerous), more backed traffic (annoying), costs for bridge and road upgrades (expensive) and a lot bad karma in the global warming department.

The meeting will be from 4 pm to 7 pm on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at the Spokane County Fairgrounds.

“This is the start of Spokane’s voice being heard on the coal issue,” says City Council President Ben Stuckart.

— JOE O'SULLIVAN

40 oz. to Freedom

The Spokane City Council will vote next week on whether to remove the alcohol impact area designation from the West Central neighborhood.

The decision comes in the wake of a reportedly acrimonious neighborhood meeting earlier this month, where local business owners called for the overturn of the ban against the will of those running the meeting. The ban in West Central is currently voluntary, but could become permanent if continued.

“I can agree that there’s chronic inebriation occurring all over town,” says Councilman Mike Fagan, who is sponsoring the change. But, he adds, laws like this should “apply to the whole of Spokane, not just the select few.”

— JOE O'SULLIVAN

Out In The Cold

Even after extending the application deadline, the city of Spokane doesn’t have any takers to shelter Homeless Men during the winter’s coldest nights.

As part of its warming center program, the city contracts with nonprofits to act as overnight warming centers when the temperature drops to 15 degrees or below. Then the city reimburses them a set amount per night dependent on how many people use the center, with a cap on the total amount paid.

Since the program started in 2006, the House of Charity has been the warming center for single men. (The Hope House serves single women, Crosswalk serves youth and the Salvation Army serves families.) But this year the organization opted out because the reimbursements from the city — $200 to $500 a night up to $4,900 — aren’t enough to pay the costs of serving as many as 70 men a night, says Gene DiRe, associate director of programs at Catholic Charities, which runs the House of Charity.

Sheila Morley, who runs the city’s warming center program, says she’s meeting with organizations that are still considering applying, but wouldn’t name them. Morley says there are no plans to increase the funding the city provides the shelters, but she’s hopeful they’ll find a solution by Nov. 1, when the program is set to start.

— HEIDI GROOVER

$kate Park

The sum of $300,000 could easily buy you a sprawling five-bedroom house on Five Mile Prairie. Or, for the same amount, you could refurbish the skatepark near Lewis and Clark High School downtown.

With construction prices low, the Spokane Parks Department has a $300,000 left over from their 2008 youth sports bond and plans to use it to rebuild the park. Parks officials have already hired a designer: Seattle’s Grindline Skateparks.

But isn’t that a lot of money for a renovation?

Actually, no, says Mike Aho of the parks department.

Typically $300,000 will build you 8,000 square feet of skatepark. The Under The Freeway skatepark is 20,000 square feet. “You’re talking about concrete work,” Aho says.

— DANIEL WALTERS

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