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News In Brief 

by Inlander Staff

One Step Closer - SPOKANE -- The Friends of the Falls is having yet another gathering to discuss the creation of a Great Gorge Park along the banks of the Spokane River between Riverfront Park and High Bridge Park.

Those who have followed the development of this park plan -- originally envisioned by the Olmstead Brothers back in 1908 but rediscovered a few years ago-- may be ready to see one of those models with little trees and miniature people strolling on painted gravel paths. Well, they're not quite there yet.

"This is the presentation of the concept. This is not a master plan. It's not a final thing yet," says Rick Hastings, president of Friends of the Falls.

But the presentation today at the Northwest Museum for Arts and Culture is not totally devoid of visuals. A giant poster will show what Hastings calls "the embodiment of the concept for the area."

Mayor John Powers and County Commissioner Kate McCaslin are going to be speaking at the event, along with representatives from the Spokane Tribe.

To get from here to the final master plan will take another 12 to 18 months and cost about $150,000, says Hastings.

"In a few weeks, a new Great Gorge Group will reconvene and, depending on what that group deems necessary, we may already be 90 percent there -- or we may be just 50 percent there," says Hastings. "They will come up with the final master plan." -- Pia K. Hansen

The Great Gorge Park meeting is at the MAC, 2316 W. First, on Thursday, March 28, from 5:30-8 pm. Talks begin at 6:15 pm. The museum will be open free of charge after the event is over. Call: 979-2874.

Another Road Plan - SPOKANE -- The idea man strikes again. Whether Spokane City Councilman Steve Eugster is the hard-charging champion of the little guy or an egocentric goofball, his energy is undeniable. When he proposes ideas, they're always big ideas.

This time, Eugster wants the city council to discuss two whoppers: Issuing $50 million in street repair bonds, and calling for an election to merge the city and county. Both are on Monday's advance agenda, meaning the council is supposed to hear them but not necessarily discuss them until April 8.

Two weeks ago, voters rejected a $50 million road proposal that would have been paid for by property taxes.

Eugster now suggests that the city raise the money in general obligation bonds, which the city council can approve without a vote. He says that would increase what Spokane spends on road repairs from about $3.5 million to $13.5 million a year over the next decade. To raise this money, however, the city would have to cut about $5.5 million from other departments. Public works officials say there's about $180 million backlog of road repairs in the city.

According to a model resolution Eugster recently e-mailed to fellow council members, a combined government would provide for six functions around the county: Abating water pollution, water supply, public transportation, garbage disposal, parks and growth management.

These issues, wrote Eugster, "cannot be adequately met by the individual cities, counties and districts of the metropolitan area of Spokane County."

Citizens would have to approve a metro government in a public vote.

-- Dan Richardson

May Vote in the Valley - SPOKANE -- The once wide-open Spokane Valley is an urban area that needs the services and political representation that an incorporated city enjoys.

That, say supporters of incorporating a new city here, is why their idea should win at the polls this May.

Incorporation supporters finally have the vote they've been demanding for months. The county has set the election date for May 21. A simple majority of those who vote (out of the roughly 42,000 registered voters in the new city's boundaries) must approve incorporation, according to county election officials.

"On May 21, we're going to get to decide what the Valley's going to look like," says Dennis Scott, chairman of the Valley Yes! campaign.

Last fall, county officials approved the proposed city's boundaries, which would incorporate about 80,000 people living east of the Spokane line at Havana.

On March 18, Spokane city council members voted to drop their fight to annex the Yardley area, essentially making the vote possible.

Now, the question is, after four previous failed attempts, can incorporation supporters convince their neighbors that a city council is better than a county commission?

And that won't be the only thing voters will be asked to decide on May 21. The proposal to expand the convention center and fund improvements to the county fairgrounds will share the ballot with the incorporation vote.

-- Dan Richardson

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