Art for an unglamorous place

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Staff writer

COEUR d’ALENE — It’s putting a pretty face on the, uh, ugly.

Not that the ever-changing, ever-updating Coeur d’Alene Wastewater Treatment Plant is unattractive from an aesthetic sense, it’s just that the job it’s designed to do is just so, well, unglamorous.

Never mind that though. The plant is the spot for the city’s next public art piece.

“It’s kind of neat,” said Fred Ogram, Arts Commission chairman, on the call to artists soliciting a hands-on, interpretive art piece that should support the facility’s functions while highlighting the nearby natural environment and resources. “It’s unique those opportunities exist on our lake, in our neighborhood.”

The $50,000 project is part of bigger changes around the plant and the Fort Grounds neighborhood.

Major roadway projects are under way near North Idaho College, while the wastewater treatment plant has put in $61.7 million in improvements since 1982.

The latest upgrade was a recently completed administration/laboratory building at 765 W. Hubbard St., and a collection system maintenance shop. An open house for those is set for Sept. 8, but it is outside the buildings near the Spokane River and public walkway where the art piece will go.

The call to artists doesn’t list specifications the piece should have, as to not hamstring creativity.

But the piece should be “made to feel seamless within the overall project, visually enhance areas of the Wastewater Treatment Plant that are within public view/access, create unique, thoughtful and context sensitive public art, educate visitors through interpretive opportunities, and provide cost efficiency through durability.”

That idea for art around the plant was also suggested by the Mayors' Institute on City Design, a resource and design team that visited Coeur d’Alene in summer of 2009.

The arts commission’s roughly $200,000 budget collects 1.33 percent of revenues tied to all city above ground capital projects, among other avenues.

“It makes good sense to put public art were the public is going to be,” said Sid Fredrickson, wastewater superintendent, on the changing area.

Coeur d’Alene is part of a lawsuit in U.S. District Court with Post Falls and Hayden Area Regional Sewer Board claiming the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency violated the Clean Water Act by approving the plan developed by Washington Ecology that requires stricter discharge levels in the Spokane River.

A court date hasn’t been set, but already the city is in phase 5b of upgrades, with plans to add up to $50 million more in enhancements and additions over the next five years. The city just allocated another $2 million for next year for a new ammonia controlling system and tertiary treatment process.

New digester and digester control building will be completed on the 8-acre site before January, too.

The call to artists closes at 5 p.m. Aug. 31.

A walk-through of the proposed site will be Monday.

Information packets are available at City Hall, 710 E. Mullan Ave., or online at

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