January 3, 2013 | Vol. 116 -- No. 37

Economic issues set the tone for Cheney in 2012

Cheney’s top stories of 2012 might be better looked as top issues rather than singular events. To begin with, as in many jurisdictions across the country, the economy took center stage.

Cheney saw its share of new development last year, a lot of it downtown with the opening of such eateries as Rokko’s, the Mason Jar and Hajjer’s Kitchen along with Red Rooster coffee shop while other businesses like Body Harmony Massage and Spa expanded operations. There were also some failures too such as the Tree of Knowledge bookstore shutting its doors in July and Ben Franklin in October after 33 years of operation.

The city took some new steps to attract businesses to its Commerce and Industrial Park, hiring Cantu Commercial as a listing agent and embarking on site certification for three plots in the 35-acre development in the south end of the city. Site certification means the city has completed SEPA environmental reviews on three plots capable of housing buildings of 6,000, 25,000 and 50,000 square feet, freeing potential occupants of a potentially lengthy process.

Cheney planners continued an extensive review of the city’s municipal code, holding workshops and surveys on propose changes to building standards in its residential zones. Work on a variety of construction projects took place including grading of the propose 50-acre park on Betz Road and construction and completion of Mike McKeehan Way, linking North Sixth Street with Washington Street.

On the school district side of things, two new middle school’s opened their doors, Cheney Middle School just west of the former facility of the same name and the new Westwood Middle School in the Windsor-area of the district. The school district also began moving several departments and services to its new facility on Andrus Road, former home of the Nike missile site and a communications station, and broke ground on a new elementary school at the corner of Hallett and Holly roads.

There were personnel changes as well as Superintendent Larry Keller retired and was replaced by Associate Superintendent Dr. Debra Clemens in July, with Sunset Elementary School principal Sean Dotson named to replace Clemens. New principals took over at Sunset, Westwood, Betz Elementary and at the high school. The school district also began the planning process for expanding the high school, which is overcrowded, and using seven portable classrooms relocated from the former middle school site, and hoping to place a bond issue in a coming election for public approval, possibly in 2013.

In summer the city enjoyed a second successful Cheney Jubilee, held in conjunction with the Cheney Rodeo.

In the fall the city continued its code work with proposals for changes to the two single-family zoning designations as well as the two-family zone. The city also completed a budget process that dealt with handling a $700,000 reduction in state funding. The budget increased by about $100,000 over the 2012 plan, and came with reorganization of some departmental duties and a reduction in staff.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

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