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Construction progresses on Spokane offices

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WELLPINIT, Wash. - The Spokane Tribe will soon be moving into a new administrative center. It will be the dominant building in the most prominent location in town and will answer an obvious need for more space as well as freeing the present building for what it was originally intended.

It will be called the Alfred McCoy Tribal Administrative Center in honor of a former tribal leader and tribal chairman who served for several years during the 1950s and early 1960s. He served as chairman during a turbulent economic time when uranium was discovered on the reservation and continued into the time when it ceased to be profitable. McCoy was a well-respected family man and father to 13 children, many of whom still live on the reservation. He died in the mid-1990s.

David Ernst, Director of Planning and Economic Development for the Spokane Tribe explained that the new building is being squeezed onto a 2 1/2 acre site above the Sherwood Community Center where the current offices are housed. It will greet people arriving from the south and be one of only two buildings in town with two stories, the other being an old school.

Masonry will surround the bottom of the building with wood paneling and trim above. The grounds around the building will be landscaped when weather permits. A large, open entry will be paved with river rock in keeping with the tribe's historic connection with the river.

Interior decorations are planned to include cultural themes and art of the Spokane Tribe and to reduce the often-seen "government building" style and decor. The work of such artists as George Flett, George Hill, and former chairman and artist Bruce Wynne, now deceased, will be included. Display cases in the front entry will showcase contemporary work that is for sale.

The need for more office space is readily apparent. The present building was designed as a community center and gymnasium but need for office space forced the tribe to utilize the building for offices since 1975. Other small units serve as office space for planning and other departments that can't squeeze into the community center. The staff has quadrupled in the past 10 years and they're literally bursting at the seams. Crowding has forced people and files into hallways and many records are presently stored in highly inefficient truck vans behind the center.

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The Alfred McCoy Tribal Administrative Center should answer those needs. It will be approximately 35,000 square feet with office space for a staff of 60 - 70 people. Several moderate-sized conference rooms will provide space for small meetings and a council chamber will seat about 90 persons. A basement is included that will provide space to organize and store records.

A separate wing will house the BIA. This marks the first time they will be located in the same building as tribal offices and it's hoped the proximity will increase coordination between the two entities. This wing represents about 25 percent of the total building.

Ground was broken last August. The schedule calls for completion by the end of May and the general contractor, Eric Hoyde, reported that as of mid-February they were in good shape and mainly on schedule, some areas being ahead and others behind. Despite a tough winter with lots of snow that caused some slow-down, the opening is still scheduled for late May. Some of the $6 million cost of the building was provided from tribal monies and financing was obtained through a loan with USDA as the guarantor.

Two other major benefits will come with completion of the building. Parking will be greatly expanded from what is currently available and will handle at least 120 vehicles. David Ernst said "parking is just nuts here when a big event occurs. This is going to free up parking both here and at the recreational center as well."

The second benefit pertains to getting the offices out of the present building and putting it back to use as a recreational center. As Ernst said, "Lots of people are looking forward to it being used for what it was built for."

The new administrative center is a win-win situation. A building that can house all tribal offices, will allow for better coordination with the BIA, will answer the present need for additional parking, and will allow the recreational center to be used for recreation.