Budget workshop talks capital improvements, debt

by ALY DE ANGELUS
Staff Writer | August 2, 2020 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — A second budget workshop took place Wednesday evening, which detailed capital improvement projects for Fiscal Year 2021.

The special meeting also presented debt, a newly added section to the city’s online budget book.

“Our budget book is completely electronic this year, so the public can access all of the information drilled down in our budget book and get more information than we have ever previously had,” City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton said.

Nearly $2 million has been raised through grant money to support the city’s capital improvement projects. In addition $3,240,000 has been allotted to water and wastewater reserves and $330,000 of capital improvement funds were contributed to the city by Sandpoint Urban Renewal Agency. SURA funds significantly increased this year due to less capital construction projects occurring. Stapleton said this funding usually goes toward downtown revitalization projects, but the city has chosen to take a year off from improvements.

At the July 29 meeting Mayor Shelby Rognstad spoke about utilizing the $200,000 park purchase placeholder fund for developable land on a golf course near Baldy Mountain Road. He encouraged the city to purchase the land, which would cost roughly $900,000.

“I think they have got 36 holes out there, but there is about 16 to 18 acres of developable land out there,” Rognstad said. “There’s really a range of opportunities that land could be used for, as well as trail connectivity.”

Recently, Bonner County’s trails plan proposed connections to Pine Street and west of the train tracks. Rognstad said the property could also be a great opportunity to improve trail connectivity on the western side of Sandpoint and give more accessibility for pet owners.

“That’s another thing that has become apparent through our recent survey is that there is a demonstrated need for a dog park survey,” Rognstad said. “It already is a space where dogs are welcome and it would be a good space to be able to allow dogs without having a greater impact on the existing parks infrastructure.”

Sandpoint’s Parks and Recreation Plan is looking to acquire 24 acres by 2024. Their vision for 20-plus years is to accommodate the growing population. Rognstad said this 37-acre land acquisition could put the city ahead of the curve.

Out of the 26 projects slated for FY21 the three most expensive will be $1 million for city hall’s fiber backbone project, $1,113,975 for the War Memorial Field project and $1.9 million for inflow and infiltration (I&I) improvements and construction projects.

The goal of the fiber backbone project is to expand throughout the downtown core to provide high speed broadband access throughout the region. Stapleton said the project is currently under design and the city is working on a grant application to deploy phase two of the project in 2021.

War Memorial Field’s turf may be installed, but the project is a long way from being completed. Phase one of the War Memorial Field project focused on accommodations for the Festival of Sandpoint and fall sports, which finished in 2020. However, phase two will accommodate spring sports and provide parking improvements, boat and launch improvements and more.

Phase one and two of War Memorial Field improvements were substantially paid for by the local sales tax option, a 2015 voter approved one-percent sales tax. Although the sales tax ends on Dec. 31, multiple other grants and donations were able to provide the funding needed for the project.

I&I improvement projects will be directed to data collection for the city’s wastewater treatment plant pilot study. This study aims to strategically reduce I&I through strategic improvements on the city’s lateral pipes.

Other proposed FY21 projects include $75,000 on “low-hanging fruit lighting projects” to improve energy efficiency and $20,000 for the Arts Culture and Preservation Master Plan, which the council hopes will generate more financial support for artists, promote diversity and preserve historic artifacts throughout the community. A report on this project will take place early September and the project will continue in 2021.

A quick presentation on the city’s debt rounded out the night. This presentation revealed only one item under general fund, a $173,000 lease for a fire ladder truck, will require payments until 2025.

The city owes another $60,000 in debt for a sewer dump truck lease, $18 million for a 1997, 2013 and 2016 water facility bond, $1.5 million for a sewer bond and $60,000 for fiduciary debt services. All of these debts range in payments as little as one year to 25 years.

The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 5 and a budget hearing on Aug. 19. To view the online budget book visit https://bit.ly/33edyjG.