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Council adopts budget, applies for grant

by EVIE SEABERG
Staff Writer | August 18, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Final adoption of the 2024 budget and a grant application for a Pine Street traffic signal project were both discussed at Wednesday’s council meeting.

The 2024 budget, totaling $52,974,269, will be applied when the fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The total budget amount has increased by 6.7% since last year.

The public was encouraged in the months leading up to the adoption to observe and comment on the budget presentation that city officials made available online. The final adoption also included a public forum; however, no one chose to speak.

A grant application that will fund the move of a traffic light from Church Street to Pine Street was a main topic of discussion again at Wednesday’s meeting. The matter was also a big topic Aug. 2 when the council discussed how the change may encourage more truck traffic on Pine. Business owners and residents of the street showed up to Wednesday’s meeting to second concerns expressed earlier in the month by the council.

Garret Bernklau, owner of the Bernklau on Pine, says traffic is worse than he imagined.

“Our business opened six weeks ago and we’ve been looking at a lot of truck traffic and it’s a little bit of a concern for small businesses,” Bernklau said. “It’s a lot more than we originally anticipated when we started building there. The trucks are getting bigger and faster, we’re just really worried about it.”

Jaimie Terry, who lives on Pine Street, said it feels strange to combine big logging trucks with a small town neighborhood.

“It feels really scary to ride my bike into town and be fighting vehicles that are a thousand times my size,” Terry said. “And it’s weird to be going through that when I live in a neighborhood — it’s not a highway.”

Katie Adams, owner of Heart Bowls, says it’s nearly impossible for her customers to have a conversation on her establishment’s patio when trucks drive by.

“It seems like they’re every 90 seconds,” Adams said. “It’s a lot — It’s very destructive, it’s very scary and it’s very loud.”

While construction manager Holly Ellis stated again that she thinks the best option is to execute the project and examine truck traffic data afterward, Councilor Jason Welker, along with other council members, still had questions.

“Why does the data matter if we know that we already have too much truck volume and there is momentum in our community to perhaps redesignate this as a non-truck route?” Welker asked.

“Designating the highway as the truck route seems like common sense from my perspective. That’s what highways are for — trucks to get through towns without going through the local streets. Our designated truck route for through traffic from Highway 2 to 95, should be Highway 2 to 95 — not Highway 2 to Pine Street, to First Avenue, to Superior, to 95. That’s just crazy.”

Mayor Shelby Rognstad clarified that the council was hesitant to move forward without a guarantee that truck traffic would be addressed. He asked city staff for recommendations.

“We can make design accommodations up if trucks were to be removed from Pine Street,” Ellis said. “There’s no rework. It’s just a matter of putting signs up.”

As a solution, the council unanimously voted to move forward with the time-sensitive grant application process, with the intention to initiate efforts to designate truck routes. The grant application will be submitted to the Idaho Transportation Department and will seek up to $1,500,000 projects involving local streets. City staff said they hope to reuse existing traffic light equipment. The relocation of the light is scheduled to take place in fall 2024.

Truck routes are expected to be designated through amending the multimodal transportation plan, and, at the suggestion of City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton, perhaps integrating improvements into downtown designs that will be produced from the Waterfront Design Competition.