By JOHN McCALLUM
Managing Editor 

Medical Lake councilman protests affordable housing request

 

Last updated 9/26/2019 at 8:57am



Homelessness and fire dominated the discussion at Medical Lake’s Sept.17 City Council meeting that was otherwise devoid of action items.

In the council’s “Meetings and Other Information” section, Councilman Ted Olson brought up a letter from the Spokane City Council contained in council members meeting packets. Olson stated the letter was about homeless people and a request by Spokane for assistance in dealing with the problem — something Olson said “didn’t sit right” with him.

Olson’s first objection was that the letter came from current Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart, a Spokane mayoral candidate. Olson also didn’t like the fact the larger city was asking the smaller city for help.

“We don’t ask others to help us with our problems, why should we help with theirs?” he asked.

Mayor Shirley Maike said she took the letter as asking for help with legislation dealing with affordable housing, but stated she felt what Spokane is proposing wouldn’t be fair to smaller cities.

The letter, dated Aug. 27 and also sent to Cheney City Council members, states that Spokane’s council passed a resolution on July 29 to levy a tax credit authorized by the Legislature this year through passage of Substitute House Bill 1408 (SHB1408).


The legislation allows cities and counties falling into two defined categories the ability to impose a local sales tax to fund affordable or supportive housing. The maximum rates of 0.0146 and 0.0073 percent are allowed in cities and counties according to how they levy a “qualifying local tax.”

The tax collected is credited against sales tax collected by the state in the jurisdiction, and the city or county can use the revenue to pay bonds issued to build affordable housing. Counties with populations of 400,000 or less and cities of 100,000 or less can use the revenue to provide rental assistance to tenants.

A county or city may enter into an interlocal agreement with other counties, cities or housing authorities to provide affordable or supportive housing. The letter from Spokane is proposing such an agreement.

Olson said he’d like to see language included in the city’s comprehensive plan that prohibited Medical Lake from having to provide help for the homeless. If a local non-profit wanted to undertake a mission to provide this assistance — a problem Olson said he believed Medical Lake did not have — then he would be supportive of their efforts.


“I don’t think it should be the taxpayers’ responsibility to support the homeless,” he said.

Maike said the council needed to have a discussion about the proposal.

Under staff reports, Spokane County Fire District 3 Deputy Chief Don Crawford provided updates on efforts to incorporate the Medical Lake’s fire department into the district now that voters in both jurisdictions have approved annexation of fire services. Crawford said they had been dealing with three aspects of the annexation: buildings, apparatus and staff.

Crawford said the district had an architect examine Medical Lake’s fire station in order to modify the structure, and felt nothing “radical” would be needed. The existing apparatus bay would be modified to provide firefighter housing, with preliminary drawings to be presented to the council and the district’s board of directors.

Medical Lake’s fire vehicles will by modified to look like District 3’s, with the ladder truck at the district’s Four Lakes station brought to Medical Lake. Crawford said they had hiring notices posted for a captain and administrative assistant position, intending to hire two more “white shirts” (full time personnel) by the end of 2019 and two more firefighters by the beginning of 2020, to be trained and on duty by July 1.

Crawford said of the 20 volunteer firefighters with Medical Lake, nine were already “on line” with District 3, six more were in training and five will finish their training at a future date.

In the only action item last Tuesday, the council set a public hearing for approval of the 2019 comprehensive plan for Tuesday, Oct. 1.

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

 

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