Trulove foresees difficult budgeting in Cheney
Priorities including widening SR 904 to four lanes, money for EWU science building design
When it comes to possessing a lot of the experience necessary for an elected office, there aren’t many who possess more than incumbent Cheney Mayor Tom Trulove.
Which might explain why no one is challenging him in his bid for a second term.
With a doctorate in economics and chair of Eastern’s Economics Department, Trulove was also Cheney’s mayor from 1978-1985 and a councilman from 2007-2010. A long-time resident of Cheney, Trulove has served on a number of statewide committees and boards including being Washington’s representative on the Northwest Power Planning Council and a member of former-Gov. Chris Gregoire’s Connecting Washington Task Force transportation group.
Trulove’s number one priority is the widening of State Route 904 between Four Lakes and the city, something he sees as a safety issue and an economic issue. The narrow, four-mile-long, two-lane, 55-mph strip is heavily traveled by residents heading to Spokane and students, faculty and staff coming out to Eastern Washington University, and is a major bus route for Spokane Transit Authority and the Cheney School District.
Trulove also sees it as a freight mobility issue, saying 12 percent of the traffic on SR 904 is truck traffic. Widening the highway to four lanes would increase safety and ease congestion, making the city’s vacant, three-year-old Commerce and Industrial Business Park more appealing to companies looking to locate on the West Plains.
“Most major development occurs within a mile of a four-lane,” Trulove said. “Without a four-lane, it makes that (business park) a little harder sell.”
Trulove believes the city is doing well right now. Cheney has managed to weather the economic downturn storm relatively cleanly while maintaining its levels of service, something Trulove attributes to the hard work and dedication of city personnel, where a new culture of excellence and focus on customer service has taken hold.
But Cheney will likely face its toughest budgeting year in 2014 due to no major construction projects in the city or at Eastern Washington University in the pipeline. That will lead to a downturn in sales tax revenue.
“In a city like Cheney, the big sales tax is building,” Trulove said. “Unless a miracle recovery happens in housing, I don’t see a lot. We’re going to be on short rations for that.”
There are several housing developments generating more activity, such as another phase of Golden Hills and the Harvest Bluff development north of Betz Road along with continued work on Terra Vista east of downtown between Cheney-Spokane and Cheney-Plaza roads. Trulove believes these would be good, but they’re still very dependent on home sales.
Trulove said the city is working closely with EWU to secure funding from the Legislature for design work on the university’s new science building. While the money is tight in Olympia, he thinks there might be a shot at getting the funding into the biennium’s second-year budget, which would go a long ways towards procuring construction funds.
Other projects Trulove would like to see include upgrading the city’s aging swimming pool, making it more modern. He said Cheney’s streets are the “envy” of many other cities, thanks to citizens agreeing to an additional utility tax to fund street work.
As for potentially doing a law enforcement tax in the same manner to provide more resources to the Police Department, Trulove said that’s not in the picture. Cheney maintains close ties with the university’s department and he sees this currently as the best approach.
“We’re not looking at any additional taxes right now,” he said. “This would require a bit more discussion.”
Trulove said he decided to run for a second term because he enjoys the work. It gives him a chance to use a lifetime of experience gained through municipal, economic and other work, and is one reason – if he were opposed – citizens should re-elect him.
As for a third term, he said that might depend on his wife finally putting her foot down about more travel time.
“You never know,” he said. “For now, I’m just concentrating on the next four years.”
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.