Hospital, fire, school, water — Tuesday vote hits many bases

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Public invited to observe election count test

COEUR d'ALENE — The public is invited to observe a pre-election test of the electronic ballot tabulators on Monday at the Kootenai County Elections Office, 1808 N. Third St., Coeur d'Alene.

The event is part of the preparations for Tuesday's election.

Those who attend will have the opportunity to ask questions.

The public is also invited to attend the

May 29 meeting of the county commissioners at 9 a.m. at the Administration Building when the board makes the results official.

For more information about the election, visit https://www.kcgov.us/31/Elections or call 208-446-1030 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday or Tuesday.

COEUR d'ALENE — Tuesday's non-partisan local election includes contested candidate races for six agencies and funding proposals for two fire districts, a water and sewer district and a school district.

"This election has some interesting contests and ballot questions, but has attracted meager interest compared to other elections," said Judd Wilson, Kootenai County's elections manager. "The primary reason is that without big-ticket items like governor or president on the ballot, few people even realize that there is an election at all.

"The sad thing about this situation is that these ballot questions and elected offices are vitally relevant to our lives here."

Citing examples of why Tuesday's election matters, highway district races affect decisions on roads, water district measures affect residents when the faucet is turned on, and the fire and school questions are also important, Wilson said.

The Elections Office sent out 2,515 absentee ballots to voters who requested one as of the May 10 deadline.

As of Thursday night, 217 residents had come to the elections building to cast an early vote, and 1,393 more had returned their absentee ballots for a total of 1,610 votes cast.

"That translates into a 1.96 percent voter turnout for this election so far," said Wilson. There are 82,124 registered voters in Kootenai County.

Early voting ended on Friday.

Tuesday's voting runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

To find your polling place, go to https://www.kcgov.us/321/Polling-Place-Look-Up or call the Elections Office at 208-446-1030 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday or Tuesday.

Here are the contested races and funding questions:

CANDIDATE RACES

Kootenai Health District

Six candidates, including Michael Armon, Steven Matheson, Dr. Randil Clark, Cynthia Clark (no relation to Randil), Liz Godbehere and Jim Dutkiewicz, are seeking two trustee positions.

The two current board members whose terms expire this year are Dr. Neil Nemec and Armon. Nemec is not seeking re-election. The top two vote getters will be elected to the board.

East Side Highway District

Incumbent Graham Christensen is being challenged by Lorna Casey-Kaiser and Dan Yake for Sub-District 1. Incumbent Mark Addington is being challenged by Jeff Hunter for Sub-District 3.

The district serves southeast Kootenai County from Coeur d'Alene to Cataldo to the east and Harrison and St. Maries to the south. It also includes Medimont.

Post Falls Highway District

Incumbent Lynn Humphreys is being challenged by Rocky Banks for Sub-District 3.

Lakes Highway District

Incumbent Diane Fountain will be challenged by Scott "Scooter" Jordan for Sub-District 3. Fountain was elected to the board in 2015, while Jordan's board experience includes serving on the Dalton Gardens City Council.

The district serves northern Kootenai County, including Bayview, Dalton Gardens, Hayden, Hayden Lake, Avondale, Twin Lakes and Spirit Lake.

Portions of Coeur d'Alene, Rathdrum and Athol are also in the district.

Bayview Water and Sewer

Michael Lawrence Kendel and Calvin Nolan are seeking the No. 3 director seat.

Kootenai County Water District 1

J.D. Owen and Norm Milem are seeking Seat 5 for the district north of Wolf Lodge.

FUNDING PROPOSALS

Northern Lakes Fire

The district, which covers Hayden, Rathdrum, Garwood and Hayden Lake, will float a permanent override levy of $850,000 per year.

A community can permanently increase its levy limit by successfully voting an override.

If approved with a super-majority (two-thirds) vote, the funding will add six firefighter/EMTs so a third facility in the district, at the corner of Garwood and Hudlow roads, can be staffed.

The district estimates that based on today's property values, the property tax increase would be $41.40 per year ($3.45 per month) for the owner of a $200,000 home.

The district proposed an override levy of $1.6 million twice in 2012. Both requests failed. The district went back to voters last November with a $1.2 million request to hire nine personnel, and that failed as well.

Northern Lakes' call volume has steadily increased from 3,362 in 2012 to a record 5,053 in 2018.

Timberlake Fire

The district, which serves Athol, Bayview, Chilco and surrounding areas, is sending a permanent override levy proposal of up to $290,000 to voters.

Patrons living in a $200,000 home in the district currently pay about $19 per month for coverage.

If the levy is approved with at least a two-thirds vote in support of the proposal, those residents would see an increase of about $5 per month, according to district officials.

The funds would be used to hire two firefighters, expedite the replacement process for three engines, and facility upgrades that include adding living space at the Bayview station, improving a training room and a station roof repair.

District officials said it may take three years to have enough money built up to buy the first new engine. All of the needs wouldn't be addressed at once.

This will be the first time in the district's 20-year history that it's requesting an override levy.

Bayview Water and Sewer

The district will float a water bond proposal for water improvements after another measure failed last November.

The district, which includes 462 water hookups, is seeking water revenue bonds of up to $2.15 million for a new storage tank to replace one built in 1942, transmission lines, distribution mains and maintenance projects.

If approved with a simple majority vote (50 percent, plus one), the bond would increase rates from $24 per month for the first 5,000 gallons to up to $40.

November's proposal was defeated with 112 voters (37 percent) in favor and 191 opposed.

The difference between the two proposals is that $500,000 for water meter replacements has been cut for the upcoming election.

The district estimates that between 4,000 and 6,000 feet of pipes are leaking in the system, which also raises water quality concerns.

District officials say the improvements will enhance pressure and fire flows and reduce the estimated 50-million-gallon-per-year water loss.

Bayview resident Chris Hansen supports the proposal.

"If the (bond) is not approved, our rates are going to go up regardless because now that some of these major problems have been identified (the board) will need to address some of these issues," he wrote to The Press, adding that his home was close to being destroyed during the Cape Horn fire due to low water pressure.

"Let's be proactive and not wait to find ourselves facing a major system failure and without safe drinking water."

However, Bayview resident Sheryl Puckett is among those who are opposed to the measure.

"I support the good work of the current board members, but I feel the bond is not what we need," she wrote in an email. "Burdening the ratepayers with unnecessary debt is wrong in my opinion. There's a large leak but no one really knows if it's coming from faulty meters or the pipes.

"Why are we jumping on this costly plan if we don't know where the problem lies when there might be a less-costly solution? I feel this plan is too grandiose and we don't need it. Our current tank can be rehabilitated for less money."

Kootenai Joint School District

The Harrison-based district will float a maintenance-and-operations levy question.

If approved with a simple-majority vote, it will raise $1.5 million over two years for supplies, instructional technology, a school-resource officer, textbooks, building maintenance, grounds upkeep and facilities repairs.

Annual property taxes for the levy will remain the same as the current year at $1.19 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The owner of a $200,000 home with a homeowners’ exemption in the district currently pays $13.15 per month for school taxes. That amount would be the same if the proposal passes.

The proposal would replace an expiring supplemental levy of $750,000 per year for two years.

About 25 percent of the district's total revenue comes from the supplemental levy.

For more information about the election, visit https://www.kcgov.us/31/Elections or call 208-446-1030 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday or Tuesday.

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