Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

West Plains mayors paint nice pictures

Trio addresses recent chamber breakfast


Paul Delaney

Cheney Mayor Chris Grover told the West Plains Chamber audience that the city is one of the safest in the state.

The West Plains Chamber of Commerce's March breakfast meeting, held March 21 at the Holiday Inn Express in Cheney, offered members a chance to hear the mayors of the three cities that are included in the area to give their "elevator" speech as to why each is such a good place.

Here's what that had to say.

Chris Grover - Cheney:

"Why would a business or family relocate to Cheney?" asked Grover, elected this past Nov. 13.

He spoke to Cheney as one of the safest cities in the state. That should be enhanced with the hiring of a new police officer and replacement of an aging fire truck.

Grover added that Eastern Washington University recently was deemed one of the safest college campuses in the country.

In a different spin on education, Cheney High School, he said, has been ranked nationally as one of the best.

Other selling points include the city-owned Light Department which ranks among the top 25 percent in the nation for its reliability - and affordability.

The city-owned Commerce and Industrial Park, located on its west end, offers turn-key building sites, curbside utilities and is nationally certified. A new manufacturing business will occupy three lots, and maybe jump-start long sought-after development.

And "Love 'em or hate 'em," Cheney is served by a robust railroad system that can benefit business, Grover said. "We love them," he added."

Grover acknowledged former Mayor Tom Trulove who was in attendance. "Thank you for turning over a great city to me."

What are Cheney's priorities?

Top on the list was water capacity and that is being enhanced with the re-drilling of Well No. 3 and a $750,000 chunk of money from the state's capital budget. "That's a big one for Cheney," Grover said.

On the job just short of three months, Grover said he's been trying to foster new partnerships between the city, EWU, Cheney School District, the business community and the railroads.

"We should all strive to partner together for the betterment of the West Plains," he said. "Together, we are the West Plains."

Shirley Maike - Medical Lake:

With a population of just under 5,000, and 1,000 of those residents in state institutions such as Lakeland Village and Eastern State Hospital, "We are definitely the 'little sister' on the road to nowhere,'' the newly-elected Maike said in a slight tone of self-deprecation.

She extolled the virtue on being one of the rare cities in the country that does not have a traffic light. People that live in the city love it that way.

Similarly, business development also operates at a slower pace than elsewhere. The city will soon welcome a new dental clinic.

Another slower growth area is housing. Medical Lake has just four water hook-ups remaining in the current system.

One of the questions Maike and staff hear on a somewhat regular basis is the desire to have a splash pad to cool off with in summer.

Her answer is not necessarily the money but rather the area's real golden commodity. "Where are we going to get that water," she tells them. "It's a common scene everywhere."

The city works to maintain its infrastructure, and that is due in part, "To a great city staff," Maike said. With limited resources, "We do what we can."

From the community safety standpoint, Maike reminded the gathering that they are among a number of municipalities who contract with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office for policing services.

However, "We have a new council and several of the council members would like to explore going back to having our own police department," Maike said. "That's a discussion we're going to have this year."

Kevin Richey – Airway Heights:

The veteran of the group, Kevin Richey, has been on the job since Sept. 2015.

The vision for the future in Airway Heights, he said, is to develop a city where people can live and play and not have to go someplace else.

The city will have people test that soon when Fairchild Air Force Base adds to its tanker fleet and up to 600 new airmen. "A lot of those airmen are going to come with families; we're looking at an influx of about 2,000 people to our area," Richey said.

It's the goal of Airway Heights to keep as many of those people living in the city with several new housing developments poised to accommodate them.

There are 460 plats either under review, permitted or currently building and 472 apartment units for alternative housing. That does not take into consideration the Kalispel Tribe's intent to build more apartments on their property.

Recently, the gateway to the city - U.S. Highway 2 - has been receiving its share of attention. Working with local business and landowners, Richey said the goal is to channel development and put more of a downtown face on portions of the business area.

Medical Lake Mayor Shirley Maike talks about the slow growth in her city.

In 2017 voters approved a $13 million bond to fund a recreation center, currently under construction along Deno Road. The project will include swimming pool, a fitness center and more.

"We're working with local, state and federal partners right now, trying to bridge the gap in funding for Phase 2 of the project," Richey said. Expansion would include a community center and a variety of recreational fields. "It's going to be a huge asset to the West Plains," Richey said.

Richey said that Airway Heights is working with both casino owners, the Kalispel and Spokane tribes, in developing partnerships.

"I've been mayor for a little more than 2-1/2 years now and on council before that and it's fun to lead this council and put this vision forward," Richey said.

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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