SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. — The Spokane County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution authorizing the prosecutor's office to file a lawsuit against the Washington Department of Transportation regarding the homeless camp off I-90 and Freya.
With this resolution, the prosecutor's office is authorized to file suit "for the abatement of nuisance conditions and injunctive relief against the owner of real property, the Washington Department of Transportation, within Spokane County."
According to a press release from Spokane County, commissioners approved the action in support of Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich's determination to clear the encampment and to ensure that interested parties appear before a county superior court judge regarding the impacts the encampment is having on the community.
Wednesday, commissioner Josh Kerns explained why the board approved the resolution. He said the state is responsible for the growth of the camp.
"Folks at the state have tried to say that local government is more concerned about optics and action," Kerns said. "This is action. This is leadership that we're taking. There are a number of folks, not only at the camp, but the surrounding areas that have essentially been abandoned by by the leadership of the state. We're coming in, we're gonna fix a problem that quite frankly, the state has let get completely out of hand."
City spokesperson Brian Coddington said the city and county are aligned in its goals to establish a timeline and set of expectations for the camp.
"The city shares the same interests as the county," Coddington said.
Coddington said while the goals are the same, the process of getting there are separate between the city and county.
“This is the county's process, and they're going through their county prosecutor's office to initiate the nuisance process, potentially. The city could play a role in the county's process, but the city does have its own separate process," Coddington said. "We issued a pre-nuisance letter a month ago to the state outlining some of the very similar terms and conditions. And that's what where we're at now with the conversation with the state.”
In September, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich wrote a letter to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) stating he plans to clear out the homeless camp near I-90 by mid-October. The Sheriff later pushed back the deadline to Nov. 10, which he said was a request of Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward.
Earlier this year, the Washington State Department of Commerce funded the Empire Health Foundation with $500,000 to aid in the first steps to clear out the camp. Despite this, Knezovich continued to accuse WSDOT, Commerce and the state of inaction as well as "possible corruption" for misuse of public funds.
Executive Director of Jewels Helping Hands Julie Garcia said she hopes the county does more to address the homeless crisis, instead of leaning on city services.
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