by Kevin Taylor & r & & r & Cathedral Fire Cleanup Begins

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & C & lt;/span & leanup crews entered the vestibule of Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral Tuesday to tackle smoke damage left from a Dec. 5 fire that has been ruled arson.

Workers will scrub down the ceiling and walls in the vestibule and then apply a sealer to keep particulates in place. The Rev. Steve Dublinski says the cathedral has also suffered damage to its pipe organ and to its inner and outer bronze doors -- both of which call for specialized repair.

"The organ has to be totally cleansed and re-tuned; that will be very expensive," Dublinski says. The cathedral's insurer has been working closely with the fire department and cathedral staff, he says. Dublinski also says one of the local Nazarene churches took up a collection for Lourdes after learning of the arson.

A small fire was intentionally set just inside the front doors mid-morning Dec. 5. An automatic alarm was triggered at 10:19 am. The fire burned a wooden cabinet that stored toys and held a television monitor.

The fire broke out on the second anniversary of the Spokane Catholic Diocese filing for bankruptcy to avoid possibly ruinous settlements in lawsuits stemming from a clergy sex abuse scandal. A portrait of Bishop William Skylstad was in the area of the fire and shows fire damage, says Capt. Mike Zambryski, Spokane Fire Department investigator.

Zambryski, who has investigated a spate of house fires in the last week, on Monday said he's yet to review internal security video from the cathedral. He has a lead on a witness who may be able to say if anyone left the cathedral shortly before the fire, he says.

There is no evidence to connect the fire to any ill will towards the diocese over the bankruptcy, Zambryski and Dublinski say.

Still, the cathedral doors are now locked at night earlier than they were before, Dublinski says. This is sad news, he says. "It is a building of shelter for people in search of God and in need of physical assistance. We will still fulfill that mission, but it won't be as freely done."

New Bars at Stateline?

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & K & lt;/span & ootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson drove to Spokane this week to meet with Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and discuss the possibility of constructing a regional jail with room for as many as 4,500 inmates.

Spokane County is in a budget crunch and experiencing chronic overcrowding at the jail, Knezovich said Tuesday. A committee has been looking into solutions. The one getting the most airtime is a plan to build a $450 million "justice campus," with a jail, courts, prosecutor and defender's offices all located near the airport.

Kootenai County voters recently rejected a jail expansion levy. And, Watson says, all five county jails in North Idaho are overcrowded. "The closest empty bed we could find is Republic, Washington," he says. With so many counties in the same boat, Watson sees a large regional jail as a good solution with shared costs and federal help.

But that's if -- and it's a big if, Watson says -- it can be built.

Knezovich agrees. "One of the things we have to look into is if this is something that's been done before." Both sheriffs say they see a variety of legal, funding and jurisdictional hurdles.

Guv Does Math, Adds Funding

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & ashington Gov. Christine Gregoire entered the so-called math wars on Monday when she declared math and science education to be in such poor shape that she's pushing $197 million into classrooms as a bailout.

Spokane parents critical of the math curriculum used in state schools fear the governor is missing the point.

"One of the parents in our group -- this is politically incorrect, but I'll tell you anyway -- said this is just like the Democrats. Instead of scrapping a bad program and admitting they made a mistake, they throw more money at it," says Deanna Mosman, a member of Where's the Math.

Gregoire urged lawmakers to fund a crash program to, among other things, bring math and science curriculums to "world class" standards. She didn't say she'd be scrapping the current math curriculum, Mosman says.

Nearly half of all last year's high school sophomores failed the math portion of the mandatory WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) test. Their class (2008) is the first that must pass the math WASL in order to graduate.

Last month, Gregoire pushed back the mandatory graduation requirements until 2011.

But even as Gregoire tries to convince the Legislature to fund her $197 million fix, parents around the state have started a petition drive -- that they intend to deliver to legislators in February -- calling for the state to scrap its math curriculum.

It's not dollars that are needed, they say -- it's sense.

Spring Market at the Pavilion @ Riverfront Park

Wednesdays, 3-7 p.m. Continues through May 12
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About The Author

Kevin Taylor

Kevin Taylor is a staff writer for The Inlander. He has covered politics, the environment, police and the tribes, among many other things.