Thursday, January 3, 2013

City Council in Brief

If you missed Wednesday’s City Council meeting, here are some of the highlights. A video of the meeting in its entirety is posted on

Water rate increase passes
Following a public hearing, City Council passed an increase in water rates. Starting in March, existing customers will see a modest rate increase of 2.50 percent. That increase will rise to 4.90 percent in 2014 and hold steady each year until 2018. New water users will see an increase in capitalization fees. Even with the increase, Coeur d’Alene has among the lowest water rates compared to other nearby cities. The Water Department relies on user fees to fund all of its operations and does not receive funding from taxes. The increase in fees will support project costs that are part of the department’s Capital Improvement Plan over the next six years.

Wastewater improvements move forward
Council approved the financing for improvements to the city’s wastewater treatment plant and authorized the filing of a petition of judicial confirmation for the improvements. The money will pay for the city to reduce phosphorus levels in the treated wastewater that is released into the Spokane River. The EPA is requiring all wastewater dischargers along the river to do this under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System. The estimated cost of improvements is a maximum of $33,590,000, which will be funded through revenue bonds. The bonds will be repaid through user fees and cap fees. A typical single-family home now pays $2,788 in new hook-up fees. The proposed fee would increase that to $3,333. For commercial customers, the increase will vary. “A year and a half ago, I was cautioning you to a 100 to 125 percent rate increase,” said Wastewater Superintendent Sid Fredrickson. “Even though this is a hard pill to swallow, it’s a lot less.” The next step is a public hearing on the proposed rate increases, which has yet to be scheduled.

LID moves to next phase
Council heard public comment on forming a local improvement district on Front Avenue and received five written protests. The LID would have property owners paying 39 percent of the $2.9 million needed for improvements to a portion of the street. The city’s share would be 61 percent. Under one proposal, property owners would pay $400 a front foot. Council will consider the ordinance to create the LID at its Jan. 15 meeting. At that time, it could opt to lower the assessment.

Council calls for open meeting on Person Field
Council voted to direct city staff to arrange a public, televised meeting between it and school district Trustees to work out details surrounding the acquisition of Person Field. In addition, Council asked city staff to convene a meeting of the neighborhood around the field to talk about what residents want out of the park. The City and the district have not been able to come to an agreement on Person. The district wants $650,000 for its portion. The City says the real value of the property is half that and is proposing to that if it has to pay that full amount the district needs to make up the gap in value. The City is asking for increased use of the district’s gymnasiums and retention of the Sky Hawk recreational program and the dog park at Northshire Park.

McEuen vision supported
Council approved the additional funding needed to restore the McEuen Park amenities previously cut from the design. The City will ask  the Lake City Development Corp. to fill in the funding gap of $4.2 for the park. LCDC is expected to make a formal decision Jan. 16. If the funding is approved, the City will go to bid Jan. 31 and open bids Feb. 27. The work would start by March 18.

New City Clerk installed
Outgoing City Clerk Susan Weathers swore in incoming Clerk Renata McLeod. Weathers retired from the post after 26 years with the city, effective Dec. 31. McLeod is not new to City Hall. She began working for the city more than 20 years ago as a part-time receptionist. Most recently McLeod was a project coordinator, managing the city’s Housing and Urban Development funds.

Coeur d’Alene in 2030
City Attorney Mike Gridley suggested the Council consider a longer-range visioning project for the city. He pointed to Bend, Ore. and its 2030 vision project called Accelerate Bend 2030, which is based on a community-designed roadmap for the city. Gridley suggested Coeur d’Alene look to the community to help it design its future, saying public involvement is critical and the benefits of visioning bring the community together. Council liked the idea and wants to hear more about the project. City staff will continue to research the idea and bring back more information at a later date.