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Officials discuss potential ice rink property

by ANNISA KEITH
Staff Writer | January 7, 2022 1:00 AM

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SANDPOINT — Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler continued to express concern about an ice rink being built on the property located next to the Bonner County Jail.

Wheeler said constructing the ice rink would restrict the sheriff’s office’s ability to expand in the future.

“By giving away this land it greatly restricts the future development of the justice complex, and ties the hands of future boards of county commissioners. The decision should be revisited and rescinded immediately.” Wheeler said.

Discussion of the ice arena was among the topics discussed at Thursday’s fair workshop meeting among Bonner County commissioners and Bonner County Fair director Darcey Smith.

“The location for this was proposed to be directly behind the playground,” Smith said. “It wasn’t quite the ideal location. It would bottleneck traffic, it would occupy the existing parking lot so that would limit what we would be able to utilize if we were having an event. Just, multiple issues there.”

Smith collected information from other fairs and their experiences with ice rinks. In addition, the fair board received potential blueprints for the arena from GIS in December 2020. In March 2021, a public workshop about the ice arena was held between the fair board and the Sandpoint Community Center Corporation, representatives for the ice arena.

A memorandum of understanding between the groups was drafted over the summer and fall by the groups to build the ice arena on the site. A final draft was approved by the county’s legal representative in October, and the MOU was approved by the county commissioners later that month.

The sheriff’s office uses the contested property for parking and storage currently. Wheeler expressed intentions to locate the Prosecutor’s and Public Defender's offices to be located close to the sheriff’s office.

After Smith’s presentation, commissioners opened the meeting for comment. Three people chose to speak about the ice arena, including Wheeler.

“I prepared a Bonner County Justice Center overview of the property and what I wanted to provide to you,” Wheeler said. “I think it would be useful for you to have this information at your next meeting.”

Wheeler discussed the county’s history with the property where the sheriff’s office, fairgrounds, and potential ice arena are located. That history included how the county acquired the property, when the various fairgrounds and sheriff’s office buildings were constructed, and potential projects that the site would be used for.

“Four months of taking office, the National Institute of Corrections conducted a jail interview and local systems assessment. In the report, the assessor recommended the jail expansion because the jail’s designers did not provide sufficient space for storage, kitchen operations, medical facilities, program space, and housing.”

“It was also recommended that the jail needs to undergo expansion plans to provide for inmate housing and services for the upcoming 15-20 years. Based on planning efforts, we need an additional 109 beds, and this was done in 2009.”

Other items discussed at the hour-long “talking points” session covered events and business of note from 2021, including a breakdown of the events and rentals and the upcoming election of three fair board members.

“A lot of people aren’t aware [that] all of the buildings are in use year round, a majority of them are for storage.”

Smith noted that the buildings used for storage are unheated — heated buildings are used for afterschool programs and event rentals.

Upgrades to the cafe, and fair board term expirations, and applications to apply for grant funding were among the topics discussed.

Smith told commissioners that the rodeo will see a name change.

“The 2021 rodeo went really well, we ran out of tickets both nights,” Smith said. “The rodeo committee recently requested from the fair board that they change the name from the ‘Bonner County Rodeo’ to the ‘Sandpoint Rodeo.’ It was for a couple of reasons, all PRCA rodeos are listed as their city name. It was really confusing to contestants. They thought it was in Bonners Ferry.”

“All-in-all, the fair went really well,”Smith said.

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