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News In Brief 

by Inlander Staff

Yellow Light to Cameras - SPOKANE -- City leaders say they're still looking at the feasibility of installing some photo-radar units at city intersections, despite a recent unfavorable ruling from the state Attorney General.

The AG's office issued an informal opinion that the city will owe 47 cents of every dollar of ticket revenue from photo-radar to the state. The state traditionally collects the money from moving violations, liking speeding.

Several cities up for a pilot program using the automatic cameras wanted the tickets for red-light running treated as parking violations -- meaning the city would keep all the ticket money.

The city is not yet discouraged.

"It's far from anything we're going to abandon," said Rob Higgins, city council president, at a press briefing.

Installing the photo-radar devices -- or red-light cameras as they are more commonly known -- he says, may be costly, but "safety comes first. If it's something we can implement and not lose a lot of money, it's something we should look at."

Mayor John Powers and City Attorney Mike Connelly also said city officials were working on resolving the matter. The problem is that photo-radar units are rented from private vendors, and that between the rental fees and related costs, photo-radar can be an expensive proposition for a city.

The city of Lakewood, near Tacoma, spent at least $200,000 running four photo-radar units over the past year. On the other hand, the cameras have nabbed several dozens of red-light-runners and reduced the number of motorists speeding through intersections as the light changes, Lakewood officials say.

Looking for a Home - SPOKANE -- Washington state officials have ruled that Spokane County must prepare a three-bed transition facility for sex offenders released from the McNeil Island facility near Seattle.

Now city planning officials are holding a meeting to let citizens speak about rules for siting the facility, in the event that it's eventually located within city limits. The new facility must go online between 2004 and 2007, and could be located anywhere in the county, according a statement released by the Spokane City Plan Commission.

Prior attempts to locate sex offender housing in Airway Heights was met with fierce local resistance.

The city council will hold hearings on the matter in August to meet a Sept. 1 deadline for adopting procedures on how and where to locate sex offender transition facilities.

A federal judge ruled in 2000 that the state's sex offender program was unconstitutional because it didn't allow offenders an opportunity to make their way back from McNeil Island into society.

The state Department of Health and Human Services has been seeking sites for halfway houses to transition these offenders. The Spokane County facility will include on-site supervision and security, including 24-hour staffing.

The hearing is on Wednesday, July 24, at 6 pm in the council chambers at City Hall.

Care is Coming - SPOKANE -- The WSU Intercollegiate College of Nursing has just received the largest grant ever in the school's 34-year history. The Health Resources and Services Administration granted the school $1.8 million, which will help reach children and families in rural areas of Spokane County with free health care over the next five years.

The College of Nursing already runs the People's Clinic at the YWCA, but this grant will enable that facility to stay open five days a week, instead of just four.

Beginning in September, the grant will also subsidize a full-time family nurse practitioner to staff the new Ronald McDonald Care Mobile -- one of only nine in the entire nation. The Care Mobile will travel to rural areas and poverty-stricken neighborhoods, providing free health services, including dental screenings, to children and families who don't otherwise have access to medical facilities.

"This grant takes our health care community outreach efforts to an entirely new level," says Dr. Margaret Bruya, grant administrator and co-founder of the People's Clinic. It's estimated that more than one-third of families living in rural Spokane County lack adequate health care access and live at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

The grant will also fund efforts to reach people living in high-poverty census tracts and children who receive free or reduced-cost lunches in schools.

About 70 nursing undergraduate students and nurse practitioner students will be able to work in new positions funded by the grant, something that will help them gain experience working with patients before they graduate.
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