by Pia K. Hansen

Cross Steps Down -- SPOKANE -- On time and on budget -- that could very well be the new slogan for the Public Facilities District (PFD), the entity that's in charge of building the convention center expansion.

The PFD Board has lost a few members over the past couple of months -- the last one to leave was Davenport Hotel owner and developer Walt Worthy -- and on Tuesday, four-year chairman Shaun Cross announced that he's stepping down, too.

Cross, who's running for Congress in the Fifth District, said it's the challenges of running for office that made him decide to step down.

"As difficult as it is, a leader has to know when to step away from a project if they can't devote the time to do the job well," said Cross at a press gathering at the Opera House. "This project is too important to be rushed. The community deserves no less, and my congressional campaign deserves no less."

Mayor Jim West then announced that he appointed Larry F. Soehren to replace Cross, whose resignation has to be formally approved by the city council. Soehren is the vice president of the real estate company Kiemle and Hagood, and he has been peripherally involved with the expansion project since its beginning four years ago.

"This is an honor and a bit of a shock," said Soehren. "For the last 18 years, downtown has been a passion for me, and I'm looking forward to being part of something that shows this community can get behind a project and move it forward."

Cross said the expansion project still is on budget at roughly $ 54 million. Groundbreaking is expected to take place on June 1, and the completed facility should open on Jan. 1, 2007.

"The architects' work is done, and there's a guaranteed price on the project," he added. "Over the next month, there will be full public hearings on the project."

Free Trees -- POST FALLS, Idaho -- Arbor Day will not only be celebrated throughout the month of April in Post Falls, but throughout the rest of summer as well.

"We are receiving a large donation of landscape-sized trees, somewhere between 600 and 1,000 trees, and they are anywhere from four to six feet tall," says Linden Lampman, city forester for Post Falls. "They are bare-root trees that come from a nursery that's closing out some of its stock, so they have to be planted pretty fast." All residents have to do is pick up the free trees on April 17 and 24, and then do their best to keep them alive.

Lampman explains that this summer, the cities of Post Falls, Coeur d'Alene and Hayden will be coordinating "a huge educational blitz, targeting landscaping companies and managers of large properties such as apartment complexes or commercial buildings."

Many new developments are initially beautifully landscaped, but trees and shrubs don't always make it.

"Oftentimes, small trees are not planted correctly, or the follow-up care such as watering doesn't happen and they languish," says Lampman. "Or the trees are 'attacked' by Weed Whackers. The strings cut through the bark on young trees, and they die."

The Arbor Day trees are free, but Lampman is asking for donations for the Post Falls Tree Trust at the event.

"That is the fund that allows us to plant and maintain trees in parks and on other public lands," she says.

Trees can be picked up at the wastewater treatment plant, 2002 W. Seltice Way, on April 17 and 24 from 9-11 am. Call: (208) 773-8147.

Spring Cleaning -- SPOKANE -- The state department of Ecology is starting its annual spring ritual: the cleaning up of ditches and shoulders, medians and interchanges on the state's highways.

The fines for littering are pretty stiff: dumping a pop can or another small item will cost you $103, and a lit cigarette butt runs $1,025, but apparently that's not deterrent enough.

"In 2003, the state picked up nine million pounds of litter," says Sandy Howard, spokesperson for Ecology. "That's the equivalent of 1,500 Chevy Tahoes or 41 blue whales, to put things in perspective."

Young adults between 18-25 are hired to pick up the trash in spring and fall. Last year, the crews picked up two million more pounds than the years before. The most common type of litter is cigarette butts -- an estimated 260 million cigarette butts were sent flying from car windows in 1999 alone. These also pose a fire hazard, that's why the tickets are so high.

Ecology spends approximately $4.5 million a year on cleanup.

To report littering, call 1-866-LITTER

Publication date: 04/08/04

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