Different Views on Casino Project From Current and Former County Commissioners

By Steve Jackson

A former Spokane county commissioner says Fairchild Air Force Base has been supportive of the Spokane Tribe's plans to build a casino and hotel complex in Airway Heights.

This past week, the Board of Spokane County Commissioners ended an agreement with the city of Airway Heights and went on the record in opposition to the Spokane Tribes’ proposed casino and hotel. One of their objections was that the tribes’ development could threaten the future of future of Fairchild Air Force Base. 

Commissioner Todd Mielke has voiced concerns that the development could be problematic for flight paths of training missions in the area. But Former County Commissioner Bonnie Mager, who now co-chairs the Spokane Tribe Economic Project, says when she was a Commissioner and the project was in it’s early stages, she met with the Fairchild Base commander to discuss issues related to the proposed casino. 

Mager: “He assured me that there were no concerns, not a hint as far as he was concerned, so at that point I felt that I should go forward and negotiate the best deal with the county that I could.” 

Mager says the tribe and Fairchild officials have continued to discuss the project, and work towards an understanding that will allow the project to be approved. Thursday, the final Environmental Impact Statement on the project was released, and it too makes references to the tribe working with the Air force to reduce any land use conflicts. The Air Force has been tight lipped about the project to the media. 

Mager also says the tribe has also hired a retired Air Force officer to study any negative impacts the development could pose to the base. 

Mager: "When he was working for the government, as he put it, that he was involved in more base closures than any individual in the United States, so he was giving it a thorough analysis to see if any of these issues were based on fact or if it looks okay.” 

Mager says that officers’ report is due to be released soon. Our calls to Tribal officials for comment were not returned. Final approval of the Spokane Tribe's casino is in the hands of the U.S. Department of the Interior and Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
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