POST FALLS - A regional transportation board has taken the first step toward what it hopes will resolve a two-year land-use debate on the Rathdrum Prairie.
The Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization (KMPO) unanimously approved a contract with consultant Bracke and Associates Thursday, to facilitate stakeholder meetings to resolve conflicts between long-range plans for the Coeur d'Alene Airport and Huetter and Ramsey roads.
The contract allows for as much as $20,874 to be spent on interviewing stakeholders starting this month, three stakeholder meetings, including one in which public input will be taken, and administrative and communication duties. It allows for 168 hours to be spent on the facilitation process at a rate of $124.25 per hour.
"I think this is a reasonable request in terms of scope of services," KMPO Executive Director Glenn Miles told board members.
Miles said he believes the facilitation process will become "more focused on things that matter, as opposed to things that don't."
The board had no discussion of the contract.
Agencies that will be involved in the stakeholder meetings include: Kootenai County, which operates the airport, the city of Hayden, Post Falls Highway District, Lakes Highway District, Panhandle Area Council and the airport advisory board and staff.
"Regardless of the outcome, final decisions will come at a cost to at least one, if not all, of the parties involved," the Bracke proposal states.
Stakeholders say a facilitator is needed because roads around the airport are planned to go across airport safety areas.
The design phase for the Ramsey Road extension, right of way preservation for the Huetter Road Corridor bypass project, the city of Hayden's land-use plan and the airport's master plan will be discussed during the process.
The Ramsey and Huetter projects will allow for alternative north-south corridors between U.S. 95 and Highway 41.
Some setbacks within the road plans have already been encountered, while the airport has been in talks with neighboring property owners about acquiring land to allow for future expansion and safety zones.
Housing and road projects near airports - and safety concerns that arise as a result - have been hot topics across the country, and have also landed locally.
In other business, the board approved a request by the Silver Express Bus Service in Shoshone County to apply for a $30,000 federal grant to allow the operation to continue.
The two-vehicle system offers daily rides between Kingston and Mullan and makes runs to the Coeur d'Alene area each Tuesday and Thursday.
Charlie Gay, the service's manager, said he hopes the Coeur d'Alene route can be expanded to three days a week due to demand.
The service is free and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The board also heard an update on the Citylink bus service from Alan Eirls.
The service gave 37,185 total rides in January, up from 35,709 in January last year.
Last month's total was the highest since last March when there were 37,273 rides.
"I can't say the (high number of rides) is anything more than people settling into the new schedules," Eirls said.