County, Airway Heights End Agreement Over Casino

By Paige Browning

After months of deliberation the Spokane County Commissioners and City of Airway Heights have ended an agreement they had regarding a proposed casino.  The agreement required commissioners to remain neutral on the Spokane Tribe’s casino proposal, called STEP.
 
The commissioner’s started developing apprehension about STEP more than a year ago, but were not allowed to formalize concerns.  Commissioner Todd Mielke says that’s when they asked the state attorney general whether the neutrality clause in the casino-related agreement was constitutional.
 
[Mielke Agreement:] “And it took them a long time, but they came back and they said well if it’s part of the county’s legislative function we believe the language is questionable.”
 
So in August, Commissioner Al French requested to terminate the neutrality clause.  Airway Heights Mayor Patrick Rushing says the county wanted to keep other elements of the agreement intact.
 
[Rushing:] “It also opened up that the city would share 20% of the revenues that the tribe paid the city for impacts.  Mr. French felt that the county only needed to have the neutrality clause removed because those were impacts that the county could use.”
 
Airway Heights wouldn’t go for that.  After nearly six months of back-and-forth, the city and Spokane county terminated the agreement in its entirety, made effective Friday, January 25th.
 
The county will no longer receive 20% of revenues that the tribe sees from future developments.  But, the county can now speak out against, or for, the casino.  Commissioner Mielke says he plans to do so.  He has large concerns about the future of future of Fairchild Air Force Base,  which is the largest employer in the area.  He says STEP developments would be too close in proximity to the training pattern on the base.

STEP approval is now in the hands of the Department of Interior.  If Interior approves the plan, it goes to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk for final authorization.

Links:
Spokane Tribe Economic Project
 
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