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Spokane Valley bails on county garbage system; plus, homelessness on the rise?

Homelessness Rises

The number of homeless people in Spokane rose 12 percent over the past year, ending a three-year decline, according to new data from the city's annual point-in-time count. A one-day census conducted in January identified 1,149 homeless individuals — including 155 unsheltered people, a 158 percent jump from 2013.

Homelessness among families and veterans, however, dropped: The count found 146 homeless families, a 4 percent decrease from last year, and 85 homeless veterans, a 36 percent decrease. This year, the survey also identified 257 homeless individuals with severe mental illness (up 44 percent) and a record-high 238 survivors of domestic violence.

Homelessness data collected from the point-in-time count is used to help the city identify service gaps and determine where to direct financial and physical resources.

"We made a big investment in establishing relationships with that population over the past 12 to 18 months. Some of what you're seeing is a result of that engagement with those folks," says Brian Coddington, the city's communications director, regarding the higher homelessness numbers. "That's driving better and more accurate data."


Garbage Out

In February, it seemed Spokane County had won a major victory for regionalism: The Spokane City Council unanimously decided to cede control of the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System to the county. (The city still owns the Waste To Energy Facility.)

But last week, the county suffered a major blow: Instead of sticking with the regional coalition, the Spokane Valley City Council confirmed a decision to contract with Sunshine Disposal and Recycling to handle its garbage.

County Commissioner Todd Mielke, however, is highly critical of the Valley's decision. "They've signed a 10-year, no-out, exclusive contract with Sunshine," Mielke says. "Keep in mind, they did not go out for bid on this."

He says that the county recently offered the Valley a much better last-minute deal that would have saved the Valley $3 million dollars on yard waste and garbage disposal compared to Sunshine's contract. But it was contingent on approval from the City of Spokane. Several Valley councilmembers said too much time had passed.

"Quite frankly, I wish we would have had this last week," Valley councilman Arne Woodard said at the June 3 council hearing. The new system has to be up and running this November.

Some Valley councilmembers said they felt insulted by the lack of solid information earlier from the county. Spokane Valley wanted shared management of the system, but Spokane County didn't offer it.

"The common thread running through these meetings has been the Valley's request to be a part of the team, to have a place at the table," councilman Rod Higgins said at the hearing. "The common response has been to ignore our requests and dismiss us."

Ironically, Mielke says, it was the Valley — under a different council — that once urged the county to move away from shared management. Without Spokane Valley, he says, the price of garbage disposal will be comparatively higher for the remaining partners in the coalition.

For now, he's hoping other members of the coalition will hold fast. Millwood and Liberty Lake held emergency meetings last week to discuss the issue.


CdA Police Shooting

Idaho State Police officials have identified the armed man shot and killed Friday by Coeur d'Alene Police officers as Thomas L. White as detectives continue to investigate how an apparent domestic dispute devolved into a deadly confrontation with police.

Investigators say police responded to a domestic dispute call at about 9 pm Friday to learn 28-year-old White had left moments earlier, reportedly carrying a gun. Officers established a parameter and began searching for him when they found him on a neighbor's deck.

"Upon contacting White, shots were fired and White was fatally wounded," the Idaho State Police report.

Investigators report three Coeur d'Alene officers were involved in the shooting, but their names were not immediately released. The Idaho State Police will lead the investigation.


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