Streamline Kootenai County unveiled

Group to promote Dan Green's vision for restructuring

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COEUR d'ALENE - Kootenai County Commissioner Dan Green unveiled on Wednesday a new organization he has formed to promote his vision for government restructuring, which he promises will save the county more than a million dollars.

Noting that the effort is separate from the other commissioners, Green trotted out Streamline Kootenai County before a crowd of other officials and business leaders at The Coeur d'Alene Resort.

The group's main task is education and outreach about the commissioners' ballot measure for an alternate form of government, Green said, which he pegged as the first step in improving county government.

"I'm frustrated with the dysfunctional structure in place to make ordinary decisions and spend tax dollars," Green said.

He reiterated the commissioners' proposals that will appear on the ballot next month, including hiring a county manager at $125,000 a year to assume the commissioners' expansive administrative duties. Voters can also choose to see several elected county officials become hired positions.

If those are incorporated, Green hopes to follow with additional changes, he said. Like making the commissioners' positions part-time, and halving their $70,000 salaries, saving $106,000.

"This isn't supposed to be a job. It's supposed to be community service," he said, pointing out that North Idaho College trustees are paid "zippo."

Green would also like to cut two chief deputy positions, serving immediately under other elected county officials, which he sees as unnecessary.

Axing them could save $120,000, he said.

The county could save $1 million more by shaving 2 percent off the budgets of officials impacted by the ballot measure, he said.

The county manager would have the financial expertise to make the cuts, he said.

"With just 2 percent change in generating efficiencies, look at the money we can save," he said.

He added that a county manager would have more expertise than elected commissioners in handling the "massive" county operation of a $70 million budget and 700 employees.

And making the clerk, coroner, treasurer and assessor hired positions would hold them accountable to the commissioners, he said.

If the officials ignore the commissioners now, "we can't force them to do anything," he said.

He identified the co-chairs of Streamline Kootenai County as Joe Morris, former Kootenai Medical Center CEO, and Jon Hippler, former Mountain West Bank CEO.

Hippler urged the audience to help fund $20,000 for mailers on the ballot initiative.

"This is something we've been fighting for," said Hippler, who was on the second steering committee that recommended county restructuring. "Bringing in someone who has an idea of how an organization should run."

Many of the roughly 60 community leaders were warm to Green's ideas.

Dale Hickman, owner of architectural firm H2a, said he found working with the county easier in the brief time it did have a manager.

"The process was much more streamlined than working with three commissioners," he said.

Eve Knudtsen supports giving the commissioners more authority over the other county officials.

"I want to know my property taxes are spent wisely and where there's accountability," she said.

The restructuring is appealing as an "opportunity to lower taxes," said Brad Dugdale with D.A. Davidson and Company.

Commissioner Todd Tondee, also in the audience, said he supported everything Green discussed.

He reminded that the changes would happen once the ballot measure proposals were fully implemented.

"It's not something that's going to happen on day one," Tondee said.

Streamline Kootenai County is a county-registered group, Green said.

The ballot measure is the chief focus, Green added, and the organization "will be done on Nov. 7."

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