Little space, many opinions - Coeur d'Alene Press: Political

Little space, many opinions

County officials weigh in on infrastructure

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Posted: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 12:15 am

Kootenai County department heads are on the fence about costly structural improvements the commissioners are considering in a draft facilities master plan.

Although officials agree on the need for the recommended infrastructure overhaul, projected at roughly $36 million, some have doubts about the details.

"We do have to plan ahead and know where we're going to go in the future, so this master plan is a benefit," Treasurer Tom Malzahn said of the draft prepared by NAC Architecture, which calls for new buildings and consolidating operations on the main campus. "But is it appropriate in its form right now? From my opinion, no."

Malzahn acknowledged the parking demand at the Government Way campus, which the draft plan recommends fixing with a 6- or 8-level parking garage.

"The county's growing, and you know as well as I that on (busy) days parking is a premium," Malzahn said. "Do we need a parking structure? Probably some kind."

Malzahn said he is concerned, though, about the proposal to build-out the administrative building roof, where the Treasurer's Office would be relocated.

He worries the move would inconvenience the public, which is accustomed to his office being on the same level as the assessor's and auditor's offices, he said.

"The three offices work closely together, and folks who come in to visit the treasurer also come to visit the assessor or the auditor," he said. "Those three should be located on the same floor."

He admitted the relocation could better protect the Treasurer's Office from a robbery, though.

The current location is too exposed, confirmed by studies by multiple law enforcement agencies, Malzahn said.

"Where we are now is not the appropriate place to have a Treasurer's Office," he said.

Clerk Cliff Hayes said he would approve of the built-out roof, proposed as part of a $3.3 million building remodel.

That would provide much-needed office space in the administration building, he said.

Employees in his departments are working "on top of one another," he said.

"It does get in the way of them doing their jobs," Hayes said.

He was more tentative about the recommendation to remodel the building's bottom floor to create a single screened entrance.

"I would like to see the building secured," said Hayes, former Post Falls Police chief. "On the other hand, I cannot point to a history of any problems. That doesn't mean we're not going to have one, but I cannot point to one we've had."

The draft's recommendations for a multi-level parking garage and a new justice building are "a good idea, depending on how (the commissioners) pay for it," Hayes added.

He would recommend funding with a bond approved by the voters, he said.

"This is the commissioners' decision," he noted. "If two of them agree, it has nothing to do with me."

County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said he sees the benefits of the draft's proposal to build a $20.1 million justice facility at the main campus.

The structure would consolidate courtrooms, the public defender's office and the Juvenile Justice Center located downtown.

McHugh pointed out that holding some proceedings at the JJC, instead of at the main campus, is problematic.

"The courtrooms in the JJC are a challenge, just because they're remote, and so transporting the prosecutors, witnesses, from here to there is somewhat clumsy," said McHugh, whose office is located in the old courthouse on Garden Avenue. "It's not undoable, it's just inefficient."

His office has had to move some attorneys to the JJC, he added, so they can work in the same location where their court proceedings are held.

"That creates challenges in terms of managing people," McHugh said. "Making sure they're doing their job, and trying to keep track of their jobs, even from four blocks away, is a little bit inefficient."

The public defender's office on Northwest Boulevard, previously a pizza restaurant, isn't ideal for its current use, McHugh added.

His only hang-up is that a new justice facility "creates funding issues," he said. But he acknowledged the commissioners have promised to educate the community and seek a public vote.

"I'll let the commissioners handle that part," McHugh said of funding.

The county commissioners pursued a facilities master plan to assess the county's current and future structural needs.

They viewed NAC Architecture's PowerPoint presentation of the final draft last week.

The draft includes: a new justice center with connecting skyways to other buildings; a parking garage; an administration building remodel; and a relocated Building and Grounds facility.

The commissioners said the next step is rolling out the draft at a public meeting before voting on whether to adopt the plan.

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  • the floorist posted at 9:22 am on Wed, Jun 27, 2012.

    the floorist Posts: 331 least they're plugging it with a vote in mind. I'm seeing too many planners who apparently have zero cohesion...

    ...what's up with that...?

    Yanno...$140 million dollars was up for grabs not too long ago that was slated for these county necessities (I don't know about a parking structure.) Commercializing their current assets as collateral for practical future development is genius. I mean, anyone would have to admit the current location for the county's buildings is a hassle to the majority of residents.

    Incorporating a jail expansion with a municipal/judicial campus on site might go over quite well with voters...

    OH, I know...maybe you county guys can borrow a few hundred thousand from the LCDC and pay that architect firm the city is so latched onto to pencil a few sketches and crunch some useless feasibility studies together...what's another $75,000 a page between friends?

  • Tim Herzog posted at 9:01 am on Wed, Jun 27, 2012.

    Tim Herzog Posts: 410

    When I ran for County Commissioner I was aware of many of the problems and issues that county employees are facing. That is just one of the reasons that the Kootenai County Deputy Sheriff's Association has formally endorsed me. I know many county employees personally now and am kept in the loop regarding what the commissioners are doing.

    I urge county employees to contact me to discuss the issues as I plan to run again for District 1, County Commissioner.

    Tim Herzog

  • votingcountyemployee posted at 6:07 am on Wed, Jun 27, 2012.

    votingcountyemployee Posts: 25

    I cannot believe that the commissioners are considering spending 36 MILLION dollars for this! People, wake up, we dont need this!! They have repeatedly tried to take away from the county employees with no pay raises and cuts in benefits! Right now they are considering reducing vacation and sick time. Please, if you know a county employee, ask them! The county employees are underpaid as it is! Please dont confuse us with state or city employees who are paid much much more. Many departments are seeing higher turn over because of the low pay.If they make these changes to the benefit package, you will see much more of this, It is costly to train new people over and over. If you know a county employee ASK them!

  • ancientemplar posted at 7:51 am on Tue, Jun 26, 2012.

    ancientemplar Posts: 1283

    This is the first time that I can remember that Herzog has made any sense. Good thinking Tim.

  • I Carry posted at 6:59 am on Tue, Jun 26, 2012.

    I Carry Posts: 559

    Seriously, talk about bad timing-----citizens are miffed about Queen Sandy and her jesters Mishack, Dorky, and Fabio, with reguard to the new park and the money involved with that project. Now the other three wisemen announce spending money for county digs. Very bad timing.
    Kootenai County is growing and it is good the needs are being looked at. I do not support funding being taken from existing projects like senior meals, employee benefits, and 4 H.
    Wouldn't it be something if the Queen, LCDC, and the county could blend money together to improve our area in a way to benefit ALL its tax payers???
    Tim has a point---possibly the commissioners could look outside the box. Just because the existing facilities are where they are doesn't mean they couldn't be moved. The current county property is pretty land locked.

  • Tim Herzog posted at 6:30 am on Tue, Jun 26, 2012.

    Tim Herzog Posts: 410

    As I commented on a previous article a few days ago on the proposed Facilities Master Plan, the commissioners have a total lack of vision for planning for the long term future of Kootenai County and cannot think past their noses! Apparently they have a self serving agenda!

    The downtown location is just too busy and more crowding of buildings, parking garages, masses of people, etc. is just not needed when we have a perfect opportunity to utilize county owned property at the jail and fairgrounds area for future expansion to lead us into the next century. That location offers room to spare for a future government campus with courthouses being located next to the jail and connected with tunnels or passageways, eliminating risks involved in transporting prisoners to and fro.

    Parking would never, ever be a problem and there would still be many commercial acres that could be sold off and be put back on the tax rolls.

    The Fairgrounds needs to go west on the prairie, near the freeway and State line area where an abundance of open space exists and is available and more suitable for a Class A fairgrounds facility. A new location would then allow unlimited and endless opportunities for greater use and revenue stream with close freeway access.

    The downtown structures, some historic, could be sold off and put to better commercial uses as restaurants, shops, Class a offices, etc., and a parking garage could be built by developers, instead of taxpayers, providing LCDC doesn't get involved. Another plus is all that real estate would be back on the tax roles as commercial, helping to lower the tax burden on the residential market.

    True long term vision seems to be problem in Kootenai County and in my 25 plus years here as a taxpayer, witnessing the growth first hand that certainly will continue, we need some better leadership by forward thinking individuals that actually listen to options provided by the citizens that are footing the bill for the future!

    Wake up Kootenai County citizens and get involved in your own future!

    Tim Herzog
    Former Candidate, District 1
    County Commissioner

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