January 24, 2013 | Vol. 116 -- No. 40

Back at the transportation table

Cheney council approves SRTC agreement giving city permanent voting seat on board

The Cheney City Council unanimously approved a new interlocal agreement with the Spokane Regional Transportation Commission that included one major, long-sought after provision – a voice in regional transportation.

“It does give the city of Cheney a vote on the SRTC,” Cheney Public Works Director Todd Ableman said in response to a council question.

Under the previous agreement the city had to share a seat with other Spokane County small cities and towns. Under the new agreement, Cheney, Airway Heights and Liberty Lake now each have a voting seat on the SRTC board, while the Spokane Transit Authority’s participation goes from one voting member and one ex officio member to one voting member, who shall be STA’s chief executive officer.

The new agreement also changes the majority vote and weighted vote calculations. Under majority vote scenarios each of the 14 members have one vote of equal percentage value – 7.14 percent.

When a weighted vote is called, each of the two members from the city of Spokane, city of Spokane Valley and Spokane County has a vote weighted at 1.286, while everyone else’s weighted value is one. Even though that still gives the three larger entities potentially more pull over regional transportation issues, just the fact that Cheney no longer has to rotate in and out of one seat, as under the 2010 agreement, was sufficient victory enough.

“It gives Cheney a strengthened position on county transportation issues,” Mayor Tom Trulove said.

Council also unanimously approved an extension of an agreement between the Spokane County Ambulance Service Board, which includes Cheney, and American Medical Response for ambulance service in the city for a period of three years, terminating Oct. 31, 2016. The new agreement reduces the maximum base rate per transport from $993 to 893.64 with $18.64 per mile, effective Feb. 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014.

The new contract also carries a provision that should the ambulance provider, AMR, be awarded the city of Spokane’s ambulance transport contract that “the all inclusive base transport rate” for the agreement will be reduced to not more than $100 more than the Spokane base transport rate.

“Which is really good because right now, ours and Spokane County’s are considerably higher.” Fire Chief Mike Winters told the council.

In an information item, Parks and Recreation Director Paul Simmons along with community obesity prevention coordinator and Let’s Move! Cheney chair Dane’ Standish addressed the council about the department’s new Childcare Health Policy. The policy is a program management policy, not departmental, and establishes “health standards” for before and after school children in the ECHO program as well as the CASLO summer day camp programs.

Standish explained that standards were being implemented in three areas: Nutrition, physical activity and screen time. Nutrition standards are geared to make sure children in the programs receive a proper balance of appropriate foods while the physical activity standards promote daily, regular, appropriate exercise.

Screen time refers to the amount of time a child spends in front of a screen, be it watching TV or playing video games. While the state Department of Early Childhood Learning recommends two hours or less, Simmons said they are shooting for zero time, unless the screen time involves working on education-related materials.

The standards, developed through consultation with area experts and in combination with directives from agencies, are practices Parks and Recreation volunteers currently are doing that are finally being put into writing, Standish said.

“It really puts us at the forefront of our health care policy,” she added.

Finally, during council reports, Councilman Graeme Webster asked about the installation of a crosswalk near Eagle Point apartment complex along Betz Road, noting he has seen many EWU students crossing there during dark, icy conditions – many wearing dark clothing. Both Webster and Councilman Fred Pollard expressed concern about the possibility of accidents, including injuries, in the area.

Ableman said crossing system options have been discussed under the plans for the 50-acre Betz Road park, but haven’t been implemented yet as the city is continuing to seek money for additional construction of the park. City Administrator Arlene Fisher said crosswalks will be something the city needs to discuss with STA, and that there are legal ramifications for their installation. She added that even with crosswalks, it’s difficult to control student pedestrian traffic, pointing to Elm Street, a major thoroughfare through the university campus area, as an example.

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

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