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
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
| Term ends: 2010
Judy Meyer, Secretary
|| Term ends: 2008
|Ron Vieselmeyer, Treasurer
||Term ends: 2012
|Mic Armon, Trustee
North Idaho College
1000 W. Garden Avenue
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814
| Term ends: 2008