SANDPOINT — The proposed budget for the city’s 2020 fiscal year includes a number of capital projects and activities, which were detailed in-depth during Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
“Our focus tonight is generally, overall, what the financial plan is with specific focus on our capital projects and plans that we have for this upcoming year,” said City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton.
Council members adopted a preliminary budget of $39,322,035 last month, meaning they adopted the maximum amount that can be allowed in the final budget. They do have the option of adjusting it to a lower amount or leaving it as before adopting the final budget.
The first department Stapleton addressed regarding capital improvements and projects on Wednesday was the mayor and administrative services budget, which includes an $8,000 inclusion initiative proposed by Mayor Shelby Rognstad.
“This initiative he is proposing meets his commitment to eliminate hate and discrimination, and strengthen social equity in our community,” Stapleton said, reading a description outlined in the budget document. “It supports training, education and other programs internal to city operations, and externally in partnership with nonprofits and the business community to promote understanding, acceptance and value differences between people of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages, religions, disabilities and sexual orientations, as well as differences in personalities, skill sets, experiences and knowledge bases.”
While Rognstad was not in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting, the proposal elicited comments from two community members who expressed skepticism over the initiative.
Todd Prather, a local business owner, asked how the inclusion initiative is “supposed to increase understanding and respect of one another?”
“To presume that the entire community is already guilty of hate and discrimination — that’s the presumption of this inclusion,” he said. “...It causes the very division that it’s trying, or supposing, to get in front of.”
Rognstad also detailed the initiative in his column in the Daily Bee last month, where he wrote, “white supremacy threatens community well-being, public safety and it is bad for our economy. If left unchallenged, it attracts more of the problem, it threatens our community identity as a safe place to live and raise a family, it threatens our quality of life and our future welfare.”
The mayor and administrative budget also includes a proposed $50,000 economic development initiative. The initiative came about as the city recently joined the Bonner County Economic Development Corporation, Stapleton said, and the funds would go toward a county-wide economic development strategic plan.
The budget discussion moved on to the Central Services division, which includes a proposed $1 million for expansion of the city’s fiber infrastructure, as well as a carryover of $25,000 for a downtown parking lot study.
“That’s been budgeted the last couple of years, and timing has been a question around that as we complete phase two of (the downtown revitalization project),” Stapleton said. “We have projected that is when we would launch the downtown parking lot study and the overall downtown study.”
There is a $215,000 allocation from the Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency for improvements to the downtown parking lot that continues to rollover each year as well, she said, until the study is complete and a decision made on what improvements should be made.
Also under Central Services is another $260,000 rolled over from the previous year for roof replacement at City Hall, which Stapleton said will happen in the next fiscal year.
As the city works toward completion of a Parks and Recreation Master Plan, the preliminary budget for parks, recreation and open spaces is one of the largest as far as projects, with a total of $1,257,564 proposed for capital and grant projects, in addition to $2.7 million set aside for turf improvements at War Memorial Field and other parks.
Stapleton said $500,000 is proposed for potential projects and improvements that come out of the master planning process as well.
“That’s basically a placeholder in the budget,” she said. “Plan adoption and priorities that come out of that plan will define allocation of those dollars.”
The proposed parks budget also includes $10,000 toward trail maintenance of the city’s watershed property. The trails have been maintained by Pend Oreille Pedalers for a number of years, Stapleton said. This is the first year, however, that the city has budgeted to support the efforts.
The Sandpoint Police Department was next up on the proposed budget, as they will be getting a second school resource officer this year in partnership with the city of Kootenai and the Lake Pend Oreille School District. The SRO will primarily work at Sandpoint Middle School, said SPD Chief Corey Coon. Kootenai was looking at contracting for additional police services, specifically for traffic control around the elementary school, Stapleton said.
SPD will also be purchasing two new marked and one unmarked vehicles. In addition to trading two of the department’s Ford Crown Victorias, the department budgeted $90,000 for the purchase.
As Stapleton moved on to what most would know as the Public Works Building and Planning department, she explained that through realignment efforts at the city, it is now Infrastructure and Development Services.
The proposed budget for Infrastructure and Development Services includes a number of projects, such as pathway connectivity on Boyer Avenue, the downtown revitalization project, downtown lighting, a transportation plan, pedestrian and bike plan, and a comprehensive plan update among others. Amanda Wilson, Infrastructure and Development Services manager, said Great Northern Road is in need of improvements that were identified as far back as 2005. Potential improvements include the roadway and intersections.
“The other component is the drainage in that area is a compounding issue that is impacting not only the roadway and BNSF, but it’s also impacting — and we hear this very frequently — the adjacent property owners who have desires to expand and build and plat and sell,” Wilson said.
As such, the proposed budget includes $50,000 for stormwater design on Great Northern as the first step toward improvements in the area.
Other departments with projects include water and wastewater, with proposals for a watershed management plan and a water master plan. The city’s wastewater services will see more than $3 million in upgrades over the next year toward the wastewater treatment facility, lift station replacement, building improvements and inflow and infiltration.
The wastewater treatment facility effort is the first phase in addressing the aging infrastructure, future permit conditions and water quality, in accordance with the city’s adopted Wastewater Facility Plan that calls for full facility replacement at the current location, beginning in 2022.
No action was taken as the budget hearing is scheduled for the next council meeting at 5:30 p.m., Aug. 21.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.