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Signs of spring and renewed optimism

by SHELBY ROGNSTAD Contributing Writer
| March 25, 2021 1:00 AM

Spring has begun and with it comes a renewed sense of optimism and excitement for change. More people have had COVID-19 vaccine shots, myself included, and it has provided for me a sense of security and openness to socialize like I haven’t experienced in a year.

For anyone who hasn’t had a vaccine, I encourage you to inquire at Bonner General Health. The hospital often has extra vaccines that are made available from those who have canceled their appointments. I know many people who have gotten their vaccine this way. The sooner we get vaccinated, the sooner we can move beyond COVID and its impact on our lives and our work.

Last week, for the first time, I took my kids out to Memorial Field to kick the soccer ball. It was so much fun playing barefoot on such a quality surface. It was the middle of March and there were two teams practicing and two family groups all using the field at the same time. What a blessing to have such a nice field that can be used nearly all year long without turning into a mud bog. I feel very proud of the city for delivering on the promise of an exceptionally high quality field that expands use and playability far beyond its former capacity.

Construction began yesterday on phase 3 of the Memorial Field Improvements. Due to be completed by May 28, Memorial Day weekend, it will include improved parking, new restrooms and an improved boat launch. This is the third phase of the project that was funded by the 1% local option tax which expired at the end of 2020. The city acquired numerous other grants totaling nearly $600,000 that also contributed to the final product. The city is anticipating another $300,000 in grant money over the next year to support building docks at the launch. This will be part of the fourth phase and will include other boat improvements and a dog park.

Also underway, is a remodel of the City Hall council chambers. It is the first phase of a City Hall remodel that is designed to improve customer service delivery, workflow and functionality. City Council, Planning and Zoning, Urban Renewal, and other regular city meetings will take place at Sandpoint Community Hall on First Avenue until the project completion which should occur in May. A remodel of the administrative offices at City Hall is also slated to begin early this summer if approved by council in April. It should be a noticeable improvement for anyone doing business or paying a bill at City Hall.

Last week the City Council approved the city’s first Arts, Culture and Historic Plan. This historic achievement represents the city’s renewed commitment to elevating our cultural and historical identity to support a vibrant arts and events scene. This will have long-term economic and social impacts. The city is opening up applications for new members to join the Arts and Historical Commission. I hope to appoint new members starting in April. Anyone interested can find an application on our website: cityofsandpoint.gov.

Next month the city will be considering approval of the Multimodal Master Plan. The plan, if approved, provides guidance for future public investment in transportation infrastructure and a prioritized schedule for implementation. It includes all modes of transportation and a vision for how transportation may change in the future. It is the third master plan to be completed in the last seven months.

A number of master plans are still in development. The Capital Improvement Plan is nearing completion and will be before council for approval by the first meeting in July. The Watershed Recreation Plan is on a similar timeline. I expect the city will have a consultant contracted by the end of summer to lead the community engagement and planning process that will deliver a community endorsed vision for appropriate recreation in the watershed. It will also address open space and connectivity throughout Sandpoint. An updated Urban Forestry Plan is also underway that will help management of the tree canopy throughout the city.

The Comprehensive Land Use Plan I expect to pick up again later this year and will likely be ready for council adoption by the first quarter in 2022. The Comp Plan will guide future growth and zoning and is the greatest tool the city has to manage housing availability and affordability.

In May, City Council will have a strategic planning workshop to evaluate all of the city’s new master plans, order implementation plans and prioritize public investments in infrastructure. The result will be more efficient budgeting, better project timing, better alignment with public priorities, and better governance.

Please join me for the Mayor’s Roundtable to discuss these issues and more this Friday, March 26 at 4 p.m. on Facebook Live: Mayor Shelby Rognstad.