POST FALLS - Post Falls is moving ahead with the judicial confirmation process to finance an estimated $44.3 million in wastewater improvements to improve the water quality of the Spokane River.
The City Council on Tuesday night also agreed to ban fundraising in city streets at busy intersections due to safety concerns in a growing community and more such fundraising requests coming in.
On the wastewater item, the council unanimously agreed to authorize the filing of a petition for judicial confirmation to determine the validity of revenue bonds to be issued by the city.
Proceeds from the bond sale will be used to finance improvements being imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Post Falls, along with Coeur d'Alene and the Hayden Area Regional Sewer Board, discharge treated wastewater to the river and are being mandated to help clean up the stream with more stringent discharge standards.
Some residents at the April public hearing believed the proposal should go to a public vote, but the council, while expressing sympathy to citizens having that right, believes the real issue is an unfunded mandate from the feds.
"They have come to Post Falls and said, 'You're going to take chocolate; you have no other choice,'" Councilman Joe Malloy said. "We don't have a choice. I think (moving ahead with judicial confirmation) is the best use of your taxpayer dollars."
If the city doesn't meet the standards, it could be fined up to $37,500 per day.
Councilman Ron Jacobson said the city would still have to meet the standards regardless of a vote.
To fund the improvements, wastewater rates are proposed to increase 14 percent each year during fiscal years 2014 and 2015, 10 percent in 2016, 9 percent in 2017 and 7 percent in 2018. For the average monthly bill during those years, the amounts would increase from $33.64 to $49.20.
The ban on fundraising at busy intersections comes after the council held a workshop on the proposal last month.
Fire agencies across the country, including Kootenai County Fire and Rescue in Post Falls, have held an annual successful summertime Fill the Boot fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in which off-duty firefighters man street corners and straddle medians of busy intersections to solicit funds from motorists with fire boots.
Post Falls last year denied KCFR's request to hold the event in city streets. City staff said it's willing to work with KCFR on finding an alternative site for the fundraiser and have offered a four-way stop near Cabela's as an option.
"This is not about Fill the Boot," Mayor Clay Larkin said, adding that it's a worthy cause supported by reputable organizations. "This is about public safety."
The Combat Vet Riders applied for a permit for its "Fill the Helmet" fundraiser last October, but canceled the event. The Guardians Foundation, which assists veterans and their families, applied for a permit in February, but it was denied.
With more such fundraising requests, the city would be in an awkward position of approving some events and not others, Malloy said.
An email to the city suggested training other groups to be able to raise funds in city streets to equal the playing field with firefighters, but Councilman Skip Hissong said that would open up liability concerns.
A motion by Malloy to table the ban proposal for two weeks was overturned 5-1.
Other cities are wrestling with banning fundraising in streets and some have passed similar laws.