Airway Heights puts first budget proposal on the table
The Airway Heights City Council heard the results of its housing study from earlier this year, relating to the Fairchild Preservation and Community Empowerment Project.
Those results show that a large percentage of residents living in APZ Two would be interested in moving, if a competitive alternative housing location was offered.
Chris Venne from Community Frameworks in Spokane revealed the results at the Monday, Nov. 5 Airway Heights City Council meeting. The eventual goal of the project is to have residents voluntarily move to safe and alternative housing outside of APZ Two. A new apartment building would also be open for other community members to apply for housing. Around 249 new units would be needed to serve the 96 households living in the area.
There are approximately 300 residents living in 159 mobile homes, 16 stick-built homes and three apartment buildings inside the APZ Two area. In the survey, nearly half of the mobile home units were noted as being in substandard condition, and 23 percent in poor condition.
“These are pretty high numbers,” Venne said.
While many of the residents own their building, some face barriers that prevent home ownership.
“We also asked about barriers that may prevent them from becoming homeowners,” Venne said.
One of the most important elements of the project is maintaining a high level of competitiveness
“That’s the key to a voluntary program, making them an offer they can’t refuse,” Venne said.
A funding gap of $12 million is needed to make the project a reality. Potential organizations the project will contact include Housing and Urban Development and the USDA.
“The project is on the state and federal agendas for GSI,” Mayor Patrick Rushing said. “We’re also working with Senator Cantwell’s office.”
Once funding is secured, a location can be purchased for construction to begin. Infrastructure will likely be in a place to move forward in 2013. There are three phases to the project focusing on short-, medium- and long-term housing needs.
The City Council passed a second reading of an ordinance to repeal its mixed-use overlay. The first reading to repeal the overlay took place Dec. 5, 2011, but any applications have been prevented by an emergency moratorium that began Dec. 20, 2011.
City Planner Derrick Braaten has said the city’s overlay was lacking in guidance and protection of Fairchild Air Force Base. Discussions are ongoing relating to the city’s implementation of the Joint Land Use Study, which will likely come to the City Council throughout the next few months. The moratorium was extended twice, to its limit. As required by state law, the city needed to either lift the moratorium, repeal the current overlay or replace it with a new one.
City Manager Albert Tripp presented the 2013 preliminary budget to the City Council. Two more public hearings relating to the budget will take place Nov. 19 and Dec. 3.
In the preliminary budget, one full-time employee was added to the wastewater treatment plant, another in the Building Department and a part-time Court Clerk was added to provide help for increased case load activity.
The preliminary budget also factors in a 1 percent increase in the property tax levy and the development and implementation of a transportation benefit district.
In all, the city is pursuing a $5,764,183 budget proposal in its current expense fund.
The City Council also passed a resolution proclaiming Thursday, Nov. 1 as Robert N. Tremblay Day in the city. Tremblay, who passed away in October, was a longtime city resident who also served in the Marine Corps and worked at KREM in Spokane. He played a large role in the Airway Heights community, dedicating time as Justice of the Peace and as Fire Chief of the city’s volunteer fire department.
The month of November was also declared as National American Indian Heritage Month in Airway Heights.
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.