The City's Pulse Newsletter
Fishing for Facts in a Pool of Poppycock
Pull on your hip boots, Kootenai County taxpayers, and come wading with me through the balderdash surrounding NIC's proposed purchase of the DeArmond Mill site. The professional appraisal on the property is finally complete and a flood of accusations and denials have followed.  Let's go searching for some actual facts floating amidst the the bilge of rhetoric and retorts on this important topic.

•Judy Meyer is a Trustee on the NIC Board.
•Judy is married to Steve Meyer, a prominent, influential real estate developer.
•Steve is a business partner with Charlie Nipp. Together they own Parkwood Properties, one of the largest private land owners in Kootenai County and known for its commercial and government-related developments.
•Charlie Nipp, Steve's partner, is Chairman of the LCDC, our urban renewal agency here in CdA.
•Steve Meyer is also a business partner with real estate appraiser Ed Morse.  Steve and Ed have been in business together for 28 years.
• As a spouse, Judy is half owner of Steve's business interests.
• In 2006, NIC Trustee Judy Meyer, Steve Meyer and Ed Morse all signed a legal Quitclaim Deed together, transferring property to "Meyer-Morse Ironwood Partners, a general partnership."  You can see it by clicking on this link: http://opencda.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/quitclaim-deed.jpg
•The NIC Board came under fire last year for not having any appraisal on the DeArmond Mill property, which they planned to buy for $10 million dollars from developer Marshal Chesrown.
•The Board subsequently announced an appraisal was being ordered.
•Way back in 1999, the NIC Board enacted a policy for ordering continuing professional services.  They decided on the RFP method (Request for Proposal). This method is frequently used by businesses and public entities.  Typically, an RFP is sent to all qualified companies and the best option is chosen.
•There are six other fully accredited MAI commercial appraisers in town with credentials equal to Ed Morse's.  In Spokane there are many more.
•The Board did not follow this professional services policy when ordering the appraisal on the DeArmond Mill property. They delegated the decision to their attorney and an administrator who did not request any proposals. They just hired Ed Morse.
•The Board was aware of this choice but took no action and made no disclosures.
•Real estate values have declined significantly in the past year, as we all know.  The price tag of $10 million dollars for the DeArmond Mill property was set several years ago, at the peak of the market.
•Trustee Judy Meyer announced at a meeting last May that the appraisal would be done soon. It is now 12 weeks later and the appraisal is just finished.
• In early summer, an elected official, familiar with all the players, contacted appraiser Ed Morse to seriously question the propriety of Ed's involvement and possible conflicts of interest in this situation. The official's concerns were ignored.
•The appraisal contains no disclosure of any business ownership or relationship of any kind.  The appraisal concludes the land is worth $13.25 million.
•About 1/3 of the DeArmond Mill site will be used for commercial development, according to plans by NIC.
•The NIC Board called a special meeting last Tuesday to move quickly forward with an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) to purchase the property.

Step carefully in your search for truth and reason on this topic, there's a barrage of bunk out there.  No one ever accuses this NIC Board of transparency.  They are even considering having the final land purchase executed by the NIC Foundation, which is a private entity so information need not be shared with the public.

If you are concerned, use your power as a citizen and contact the NIC Board or the Foundation.  Let them know you are tired of the games.  This is serious public business and we, the taxpayers of Kootenai County, should not be begging for clear information. We expect a respectful trust relationship with our elected officials, and NIC still has a lot of explaining to do.
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Dear Newsletter Readers, 
This is the column that ran in last Sunday's CdA Press.  It was especially visual because the Quitclaim Deed was printed right next to my column on the Op-Ed page.  Somehow actually seeing the document complete with the notary's seal, the stamps from the county and all the official markings, brought the reality home.  
Please realize that I am not drawing conclusions with my column.  I am putting forth information that is as true and honest as I can find.  The actions and accountability of the NIC Board are the focus of my column, not any individual person.  The NIC Board could have avoided any perception of problems by following their adopted professional services policy and/or by publicly addressing any possible concerns up front, ahead of the appraisal.
My hope is that our elected officials, whether at NIC or the city, county or state, will realize the public's thirst for government transparency and information about our important local issues.
Have a great week.  --Mary
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Mary Souza has been a concerned citizen of CdA for over 20 years. She's a local small business owner, former P&Z Commissioner and wrote an opinion column in the CdA Press on local issues.  Her opinions are her own.

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