Cd'A: Legion left out of McEuen planning

Group wasn't represented on 21-person team

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Dusty Rhodes, adjutant for the American Legion Post 14, expresses his concern to Coeur d'Alene Mayor, Sandi Bloem, during a meeting to address American Legions concerns about the baseball fields at McEuen Park.

COEUR d'ALENE - The American Legion said it was left out when it came to planning McEuen Field.

They were, city officials said on Monday, but by accident.

The American Legion wasn't represented in the 21-person steering committee that comprised various stakeholders in charge of helping craft the conceptual plan for revamping the downtown 20-acre park. An American Legion Baseball representative was appointed, Dennis Spencer, but a breakdown in communication prevented word of planning progress from getting back to the American Legion.

The committee assumed Spencer was in communication with the Legion as the baseball representative, and Spencer assumed the Legion had its own information pipeline.

Neither was the case.

"We messed up," Mayor Sandi Bloem told around 25 Legionnaires during an informal question and answer meeting about the McEuen Field conceptual plan at the American Legion Post 14 building in Midtown. "I'm not afraid to say we messed up. I'll take all the blame for not having you on the committee up front."

After the apology, Monday's meeting also gave Legionnaires a chance to voice their concerns with the project.

Two thorns stick in the Legion's "craw," said Dusty Rhoads, adjutant for the American Legion Post 14. Those are: Removing the Freedom Tree and moving forward with the project without a long-term solution as to where to put the baseball field.

"That really hits us pretty deep," Rhoads said.

Instead, move the Freedom Tree and include it in the park, the Legion said.

It also wants a written promise on where the new baseball field will go. The temporary solution is to build up the Coeur d'Alene High School baseball facility, and some members worry a long-term solution won't be found after it is.

"I'm concerned American Legion Baseball in Coeur d'Alene will disintegrate," said Jamie Duman, Coeur d'Alene American Legion president.

The Legion also supports the McEuen proposal being put to a public vote.

The problem is the city can't promise land it doesn't have. But if some becomes available for a future ball field, the city will hold to its promise of replacing the McEuen Legion field with one of equal or better value.

As is usually the case with McEuen Field, the discussion was passionate.

Some said they felt the final plan was already a done deal, but Bloem reiterated that nothing in the plan is finalized.

The public will have more opportunities to weigh in, and their suggestions will be considered, as they have been this far along, she said. The City Council will have the final vote on the conceptual plan, whatever it turns out to be, but the public's vote is coming through online surveys and from input at public meetings.

City Council President Ron Edinger said he wouldn't vote for the plan as it's presented.

"I say it like it is," the councilman said. "If that ticks some people off, that's the way it goes."

Passions aside, several said agreements on all the fields will probably be met.

"They'll get there," said Eric Klepfe, legion board member, on the sides finding a new baseball field. "It's been a good relationship in the past and that's the only way to get there, to sit down and talk about it."

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