Cheney Free Press -

By Lee Hughes
Staff Reporter 

ML Council extends planning contract


Last updated 7/25/2019 at 8:12am

Attendance was back to normal – that is, low – for the July 16 Medical Lake City Council meeting, as members, absent Councilwoman Jessica Roberts, heard two presentations and addressed some minor business issues before going into executive session for litigation reasons.

A planning commission position vacant for weeks was filled by longtime resident Marye Jorgenson by unanimous approval by the council.

The council also approved an on-call contract, not to exceed $12,500, with SJC Alliance for professional services related to additional planning work that will likely be necessary after the current plan is approved in the near future.

“There will inevitably be some other land use requests, like rezone requests,” city Administrator Doug Ross told the council.

The contract is an amendment to an existing contract with SJC for current comprehensive planning work. It is good through the end of the year, Ross said.

Avista officials presented the council with an overview of work to install smart electric meters and gas modules on the West Plains beginning in October, according to Melanie Rose, regional business manager for Avista.

Current meters are read once per month, Josh Giluciano, director of electrical engineering for Avista said. The benefit of the new meters is the ability for consumers to review energy usage in five-minute increments. In some cases, the information is so detailed it can tell a customer when their home HVAC system is malfunctioning.

The meters transmit encrypted information in “bursts,” totaling about three minutes per day, to collector modules located on utility poles, which then send the data to Avista via a cellular network. The information is then used by Avista for billing, and will be available for customers to view online.

It also makes Avista more responsive to power interruptions, Giluciano said.

Wellington Energy will be installing residential meters, while Avista crews will be replacing commercial meters.

Customers will receive multiple notifications ahead of meter replacement, including a knock on their door the day their meter is replaced. Door hangers will be left behind for those not home during the installation.

Smart meters are a concern for some, Giluciano said, mainly due to perceived health, data-security and privacy reasons. Customers will have the option to opt-out of installation.

Out of the 250,000 smart meters already installed by Avista, about 750 customers have opt-out, Giluciano said.

Half of U.S. households already have smart meters, or about 76 million smart meters installed in the U.S., Rose said.

Notices will begin going out to affected customers in August.

For more information go to

The council also received an overview of services from the Spokane Conservation District.

SCD offers a wide range of conservation services and programs, Director Vicki Carter told the council. For example, the Firewise program offers landowners free wildfire assessment and advice about hardening their property against wildfires.

They also provide free sick and diseased tree assessments.

For homeowners with questionable septic systems, the district offers loans and grants for repair.

“Helping landowners, that’s our role,” Carter said.

SCD also help farmers with conservation-oriented farming. Now 20 years old, the Direct Seed Loan Program helps farmer’s transition to low- or no-tillage operations.

Class I farm soil is becoming a rare commodity that is being swallowed up by residential development and needs protecting, Carter said. From 2002 – 2012, Spokane County lost 106,000 acres of farmland.

“We’re going to run out here one day, and then it’s too late,” Carter said, sharing a conservation slogan with the council: “Pavement is the end of the road.”

“Since 1995 we’ve put out over $25 million in low-interest loans to help our producers buy conservation-tillage equipment.” Carter said.

Another SCD program is the Vets on the Farm program, which helps military veterans transition into civilian life by offering training, connections and education in agriculture, ranching and farming.

SCD’s proposed 2020 budget is $24 million, according to Carter, with $2.4 of it going to the organizations general fund. The remainder is “flow-through money” for loan and other programs.

For more information about SCD programs go to

The executive session lasted approximately 20 minutes before the council adjourned. No additional business was disussed.

Lee Hughes can be reached at


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