Cd’A shines in rearview mirror

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RALPH BARTHOLDT/Press Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer gives his State of the City address during Tuesday’s Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce Upbeat Breakfast at The Coeur d’Alene Resort.

City services by the numbers

During his State of the City speech on Tuesday, Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer ticked through each of the city’s 14 departments — containing 400 employees — that oversee its $90 million budget, providing kudos to staff, highlighting accomplishments and detailing the finer points of their operations including:

• Water department. Supplies between 6 to 41 million gallons of water per day. Responsible for 2,600 fire hydrants and 19,000 meters.

• Wastewater department. Maintains 215 miles of underground piping and pump stations. Treats almost 4 million gallons of wastewater daily.

• City library. Checks out 400,000 items annually. More than 36,000 Coeur d’Alene residents have library cards.

• Municipal Services. The keeper of the records issued more than 2,000 permits in 2017.

• Planning department. Conducted 942 plan reviews for building permits. The department is working on amendments to the Zoning Code and amending procedures to expedite the process.

• Streets and engineering department. Maintains 550 lane miles. Managed five multimillion dollar city improvement projects in 2017.

• Building department. Conducted 8,100 inspections. Reviewed more than 8,400 plans. Issued more than 2,400 building, plumbing, and mechanical permits. Issued 335 single family permits in 2017.

COEUR d’ALENE — The last remaining undeveloped Spokane River frontage, a 47-acre swath of sloping ground west of Coeur d’Alene with a well-traveled boulevard at its upper perimeter, has for a decade been a question mark in the book of developers.

Three developers in 12 years let the property, the former Atlas Mill site, fall out of escrow.

It was just too risky, Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer told about 300 participants at the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce Upbeat Breakfast Tuesday morning at The Coeur d’Alene Resort.

There were too many unknowns.

Widmyer was instrumental in getting council members and administrators on board, building a coalition of risk takers to enter into an agreement — slated to be finalized in May — that will place a big piece of the property in the public’s hands and set aside the remainder for private enterprise.

“The main concern from a developer’s standpoint were all of the unknowns with the property,” Widmyer said, reading from a letter from an area developer. “Not just from an environmental standpoint but from a land use and financing standpoint.”

Developers were concerned that the former mill site, which was bisected by a railroad right of way and once contained a mill pond and mounds of wood waste, could turn into a liability.

Questions of annexation, potential environmental hazards and financial feasibility tainted the property’s prospects.

By working with the state and EPA, the city helped allay environmental concerns. By partnering with ignite cda, Coeur d’Alene’s urban renewal agency, it was able to leverage funding to buy the land and move ahead to develop plans for the land that include selling a portion for development while adding public water frontage.

“We are looking forward to creating a great public/private partnership at the Atlas Mill site,” Widmyer said Tuesday. “We will be reaching out to get public input on this very important asset for our community.”

Widmyer’s state of the city address capped Tuesday’s chamber breakfast with a review of projects the city tackled in 2017 and an outlook of projects slated for this year.

Projects scheduled for completion in 2018 include a $7.3 million parking garage that will provide an additional 220 parking spaces downtown. The second phase of the Four Corners Memorial Field project will be completed, as will the rebuilding of Seltice Way, a $5.4 million revitalization project upgrading a four-lane boulevard for commuters.

“This project is not a simple reconstruction, but a major revitalization,” Widmyer said.

The city will continue to strive for four goals that include making its streets pedestrian-friendly through connectivity, safe paths and tree-lined walkways. City policies will be small business-friendly and seek to grow the economy by building upon the entrepreneurial spirit that exists in Coeur d’Alene. Council members will continue to find new avenues to affordable housing and the city will continue to seek “adaptive reuse of vacant buildings,” such as the reconstruction of the downtown Elks that now houses small businesses and a North Idaho College department.

One of the biggest focuses of the future, Widmyer said, is grounded in local businesses, a local market and local talent.

He encouraged residents to take part in their city government. That’s how change is made, he said.

“You really can change our minds,” Widmyer said. “A well-informed citizen who gets up and speaks at a meeting on an issue can be very compelling. But you have to be well-informed. And you have to do it in a respectful manner.”

The cool thing about being mayor, Widmyer said, “Is that, unlike at the state and national levels, you can make a decision and often see concrete results.”

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