The City's Pulse Newsletter
Think Outside the Corridor


It could cost $100 million or more for a decision made by a handful of people in a back room.  And apparently they don't have to make it public, even though the taxpayers will be footing the bill.

North Idaho College is negotiating right now to find the first $10 million dollars in order to buy the Stimson Mill  (light teal on the map) from developer Marshall Chesrown.  It's a 17 acre property, so that equates to...get ready...$588,200 per acre.  That's about 4 times more costly than other land in the area.  Plus, the mill site is right next to the city's Wastewater Treatment Plant (in yellow on the map), with only partial river frontage.   

On the other hand, the City of CdA has been allowing the University of Idaho to lease the Harbor Center (the old Osprey Restaurant building--in red on the map) for $10, yes ten dollars, per year since 2002.  The city is offering to let U of I purchase the building and surrounding land for a total of $1.3 million. That's quite a deal by comparison.


 

 

An educational corridor down in the Fort Grounds will cost the taxpayers of all of Kootenai County a bundle of money.  It's an expensive, land locked area surrounded by upscale housing, limited access, even more limited parking and high priced services.  And the costs will escalate for years to come.

If you want more background on some of these problems, please read my two newsletters from earlier this year, "Is There Some Cahootin' Goin' On?" and "An Idaho State of Mind", both available free at: http://thecityspulse.com.

Today I would like to talk about alternatives to the education corridor in the Fort Grounds location.  Please understand that I am squarely in favor of expanding higher education that serves all of North Idaho.  I love education at all levels.  Education should be student-oriented and focus on quality professors and learning opportunities, not just buildings.  Buildings don't teach, as I mentioned last week referring to our local middle school issue.

To think outside the corridor we must put on our creative hats. Where could we possibly find a space in Kootenai County that would be affordable, accessible, have abundant parking, room for expansion, with reasonably priced housing and services nearby?  Voila!  The Post Falls Outlet Mall.  It was not my idea, but it's brilliant. Think about it.  It has all of that and much more.  The nearly vacant mall is just waiting for the right purpose. The buildings are there, the parking is in place, it has sewer, water, bathrooms, lights, heat...it's ready to go. The price is right. The lease would be pennies on the dollar by comparison. And as I learned today, a publicly leased building on private land  does not come off the tax rolls, so it protects the taxpayers in yet another way.

The mall could easily be spruced up by an architect to include updated style, gathering areas, cafes and bookstores.  But one of the very best features of the Outlet Mall is what's right nearby.  The Research Park for NIC and U of I is just behind the mall, as well as extensive room for future expansion.  And there are two freeway interchanges, one at Pleasantview Road and the soon-to-be-constructed ramp for Cabella's near the other end of the property.  Easy.  No fighting heavy traffic on Northwest Blvd.  No searching for a parking spot.  It erases a whole list of problems.

Why are NIC and the City of CdA considering only the Fort Grounds location? One that will undoubtedly have far greater problems and costs than other sites?  There are several theories.  Rumors abound.  Most describe enormous personal gain by well connected people behind the scenes.  Maybe they are true, maybe not.  But the fact that this decision is taking place in secret, without public involvement is upsetting.  Mayor Larkin of Post Falls and other local officials have publicly asked to be included but have been ignored. Concerned citizens as well as the Editor of the Press have expressed their hopes for an open and transparent decision making process. Yet there has been no move in that direction.

The NIC Board of Trustees will be the ultimate vote on this decision.  Perhaps it's time they heard from the citizens.  Maybe if they realize the public is concerned and aware of their secluded process, they will open their meetings, plans and discussions to include the taxpayers. Then again, maybe not.  I was going to conclude with contact information so you could email or call them.  But their web site has no such contact info for the Trustees.  It offers no way for you to tell them your thoughts and concerns as taxpayers.  And even if you attend a board meeting, they will not answer any questions from the public.

One way to contact them is through Christie Wood's work email at the city, please see the address below, or send a note to the Trustees at the school's general post address, also listed below. If you are able to get through to these public servants, elected by the people to manage NIC in the taxpayer's best interest, please ask them to open up their process. And to think outside the corridor.  

NIC Board of Trustees:
Rolly Williams, Chair Term ends: 2010
Christie Wood, Vice Chair
Email:  wood@cdaid.org
Term ends: 2010
Judy Meyer, Secretary Term ends: 2008
Ron Vieselmeyer, Treasurer Term ends: 2012
Mic Armon, Trustee 
Mailing Address: 
      North Idaho College
     1000 W. Garden Avenue
     Coeur d'Alene, ID  83814
Term ends: 2008



        

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